15:27 PM

Planting Seeds for Healthy Living

Every year, since 2012, as part of the Pediatric Wellness Center, a garden is planted at MetroHealth Medical Center, Main Campus.

The garden – tucked away on the roof of the Women’s and Children’s Pavilion – is a favorite learning space for children who participate in MetroHealth’s pediatric wellness summer camp, which is focused on healthy eating habits and exercise.

Sadly, COVID-19 put the camp on hold, but it didn’t stop Dietetic Technician Erin Mullen and Physical Fitness Instructor Mike Hemmer from planting the garden.

Rows of bright red juicy tomatoes and deep green squash are coming into full bloom. This year’s harvest is expected to produce over 50 pounds of fruits and vegetables.

“The garden is an important aspect of our program,” Mullen explains. “We give the produce to our patients to encourage healthy eating habits. It’s often the first time children are exposed to vegetables like zucchini, eggplant, kale, tomato, cucumber, carrots and basil.”

Some of the produce is used in cooking videos, which are shared on the Pediatric Wellness Center web page.

“Choosing what to eat is just part of a healthy diet; we want to also demonstrate healthy ways to prepare the food,” Mullen says.Though COVID-19 has prevented the children’s in-person camp this year, the pediatric wellness team found other ways to connect with kids. The team has worked with MetroHealth’s Institute for H.O.P.E.™ and the Greater Cleveland Food Bank to distribute lunches from 12:30 until 1:30 p.m., Monday-Friday, at the Women’s and Children’s Pavilion.

In addition to lunch, children receive packets that include nutrition lessons and exercise tips. The program continues through Aug. 28.

In addition to the vegetable garden, Mullen, Hemmer and Bill Tomcko, MetroHealth’s logistics manager, planted sunflower seeds in the empty flower boxes outside of the West 25th Street entrance.

This entrance remains closed due to COVID-19, but you can see the tall sunflower stalks from the windows near the pharmacy and from West 25th Street.

“They have really taken off,” Mullen says.