Tuesday, May 23, 2017 - Innovative partnership brings delicious, nutritious salads to patients, employees

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

An innovative partnership between Urban Organics – an organic aquaponic farm in St. Paul – and four HealthPartners hospitals and clinics in the St. Croix Valley has made it simpler for patients and health care staff to be eco-friendly.

Under the partnership – believed to be the first of its kind in Minnesota between a health system and an aquaponic farm – salad greens are provided by Urban Organics, which has converted an old brewery in St. Paul into one of the first USDA-certified organic aquaponic farms in the country. Urban Organics delivers organic salad greens to each of the four participating HealthPartners hospitals or clinics within 24 hours of harvest.

The pilot project at Lakeview Hospital (Stillwater), Hudson Hospital & Clinic, Westfields Hospital & Clinic (New Richmond, Wis.) and Stillwater Medical Group has received the thumbs-up by patients and employees alike.

“Fresh and sustainably grown foods are an important part of our commitment to health,” said Ted Wegleitner, CEO and President of Lakeview Hospital. “We were excited about this opportunity to partner with Urban Organics to provide these delicious, nutritious salad greens in our patient meals and our campus cafeterias. The feedback we’ve heard from patients and employees confirmed that this was a good decision.”

Aquaponics is a farming method where fish and plants help each other grow, essentially mimicking what happens organically in nature. Fish provide nutrient-rich water to nourish the plants, which then provide a natural filter for the water in which the fish live. Aquaponics uses just 2 percent of the water used in conventional farming and produce can be grown and harvested year-round.

"It's something that people can trust,” said Urban Organics co-founder Kristen Haider of the farm’s produce. “It's coming from a reliable source. It's local, the produce is organic and we’re using a sustainable method of farming. It's a different way of looking at it.”

Urban Organics salad greens have been used in patient meals and cafeteria salad bars since December. A trial retail option – Greens To Go – offering patients, employees and visitors the chance to purchase 5 oz take-home containers of the salad blends went live this month after a successful trial in March.

Urban Organics three-tier planter beds at the former Hamm's Brewery in St. Paul are filled with organic Swiss chard, romaine lettuce, and more. The aquaponic system uses just 2 percent of the water needed for conventional farming and produce can be grown year-round. 
Lakeview Hospital Nutrition Services employee Kristal Anderson with a fresh delivery of Urban Organics salad greens to the hospital kitchen.


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