Advocate Health Care fights food insecurity, grows produce for patients on South Side

Mark Rivera Image
Wednesday, June 14, 2023
Hospital grows produce for patients on South Side
A new initiative is fighting food insecurity by bringing fresh produce to Advocate Health Care patients on the South Side.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A new initiative helps reduce food insecurity by bringing fresh fruits and vegetables to Advocate Health Care patients on Chicago's South Side.

At 96-years-old, Lenore Chico is still rolling up her sleeves to help her South Side community.

"I think it's very important, because there are so many people still that aren't getting what they should be getting," Chico said.

She's been volunteering at Advocate Trinity Hospital for more than 20 years, and now helps with Advocate's "Food Farmacy" distribution program sorting produce.

"It makes me feel that we're doing something for somebody else that needs it," Chico said.

And, Wednesday's distribution is the start of something new.

"Not enough people have enough choices, and what the choices are, they're kind of low quality choices. They tend to be," said Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital Smart Farm Manager Chris Cubberly.

Cubberly tends and harvests produce at Advocate's 2.5-acre farm in the northwest suburbs, now bringing it to Advocate Trinity patients in Chicago, in an area where it can be difficult to find high quality fresh produce.

"Food grown in the large growing centers of the United States, it has hundreds and hundreds of miles on it. Many, many people touch it. It's sitting here. It's sitting in this cooler. It's sitting in this truck. This is immediate from the ground to the eater," Cubberly said.

Some greens were harvested on Tuesday from Advocate Good Shepard's smart farm in Barrington and were then given away to patients on the South Side on Wednesday. They are working to get the highest quality product to help their overall health and reduce food insecurity.

"You think of the South Side of Chicago, and it really is a food desert for some people," said Advocate Trinity Hospital Dr. Julie Taylor.

Taylor is a family physician who refers patients to the food giveaway program, now with even fresher produce, along with healthy eating and exercise to help or even reverse negative health outcomes.

"It can definitely reverse diabetes. It can get you in control when you're out of control, as far as your hypertension," Taylor said.

And, that good is what keeps long-time volunteers like Chico coming back year after year.

"I think that's wonderful, because that means that the farmers out there are working for each and every one of us too," Chico said.

Advocate Health Care said their northwest suburban farm will continue to provide those fresh fruits and vegetables to the South Side through the growing season.