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Innovation brings local organic salads to health care

It’s not easy being – or eating – green, but a new partnership aims to make it easier.

HealthPartners is teaming up with Urban Organics to help the patients and care teams at several of our locations think green – specifically when they head to the café or have a meal brought to their room.

Urban Organics grows salad greens in an old brewery in St. Paul. How? By using aquaponics. That’s a system where fish and plants help each other grow. The process copies what happens in nature. Fish provide water rich in nutrients to feed the plants. And the plants provide a natural filter for the water in which the fish live. All in all, it uses just 2 percent of the water used in regular farming.

Then, within 24 hours of harvest, Urban Organics takes its salad greens to each of these five HealthPartners sites:

  1. Hudson Hospital & Clinic in Hudson, Wis.
  2. Lakeview Hospital in Stillwater, Minn.
  3. Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minn.
  4. Stillwater Medical Group – Stillwater Clinic in Stillwater, Minn.
  5. Westfields Hospital & Clinic in New Richmond, Wis.

Lakeview Hospital Nutrition Services employee Kristal Anderson with a fresh delivery of Urban Organics salad greens that was made to the hospital kitchen.

The partnership started in 2016. And it’s believed to be the first of its kind in Minnesota between a health system and an aquaponic farm.

“Our hope is to connect the people we serve with food choices that are not only healthy, but also good for the environment and our community,” said Carolyn Deters, RD, Regions Hospital Food and Nutrition Manager.

Indeed, buying local is one of many ways our organization works toward sustainability.

“We were excited about this chance to team up with Urban Organics. It matches up very well with the overall way we commit to providing a healthier and cleaner community,” said Ted Wegleitner, CEO and President of Lakeview Hospital. “And the overwhelming feedback says this was a good decision.”

Urban Organics is one of the first organic aquaponic farms in the country to be certified by the USDA. Produce can be grown and picked year round. We use it in patient meals and our café salad bars. And people can also buy containers to take home with them. Each of our locations offers as many as nine kinds of greens.

“It's food that people can trust,” Urban Organics co-founder Kristen Haider said. “It's local, the produce is organic and the farming is sustainable. It's a different way of looking at it.”

From (aquaponic) farm to (hospital) table

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