Hospital farm stand: 'Good food is good medicine'

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. -- While hospital food isn't always the most popular, people were lined up Thursday to get fresh produce at Food for Lane County's Farm Stand at Sacred Heart Medical Center at Riverbend in Springfield.

"We had a line," said assistant farmer Heather Rudich on opening day of the farm stand, held outside adjacent to a parking lot at the hospital on June 14. "And we had people showing up early, before it even began."

"This was grown across the street and harvested this morning by kids that go to school in this neighborhood," added Rudich as she pointed to the few remaining pieces of produce. "And it's being eaten by neighbors."

Open to the community and the hospital, Sacred Heart staff member Cheryl Suter said the farm stand is a triple win for her coworkers.

"Well, it's convenient, on my way to my car and it's also great stuff," she said as she picked up three bags of fresh veggies. "It's healthy and locally grown."

"Nine, ten and twenty," counted farm stand cashier Paige Freerksen as she handed the cash back to a customer. "Thank you!"

Freerksen, a student at a local high school, said the money is for a good cause.

"The proceeds go to Food for Lane County," she said, "and the extra food goes to Food for Lane County too."

All the produce is picked and sold by youth farmers like Freerksen, who said the job provides her with a wage and work experience.

Pulmonary rehab therapist Robert Stalbow said the farm stand fulfills one of the hospital's missions"good food is good medicine."

"We believe that a good, healthy diet can actually lead to improved health," said Stalbow.

Food for Lane County's Youth Farm will be open at Sacred Heart Medical Center at Riverbend every Thursday from 2 to 6 p.m. all summer long.