Vermont hospital shares good nutrition with the community

TOWNSHEND, Vt. (WCAX) Nearly 35 percent of all the food served at Grace Cottage Hospital is locally sourced. Officials say that's well above the national average. The food goes to staff and also patients on the mend.

"The food is pretty good," patient Glenn Boyton said. "I wouldn't make it a destination because we have so many good ones in the area."

But it's not just people inside the hospital who are benefiting from this farm fresh philosophy.

"This is a small experiment in minimally processed local food to extend the nutritional value through the winter months," said Bill Monahan, a registered nurse.

Grace Cottage is partnering with the Townshend Community Food Shelf and West River Community Project to collect a ton of tomatoes donated from area farms.

"Food is medicine," Monahan said.

The tomatoes are being frozen for the food self. About 30 families will benefit all winter long. Nurses say processed, canned food-- often handed out at food shelves-- can lead to long-term health problems.

"Hypertension, heart, especially Type 2 diabetes," Monahan said.

"It's all about preventable care, it's all about primary care, it's all about connecting to the community," said Roger Allbee, the CEO of Grace Cottage.

Allbee, a former Vermont agriculture secretary, says when it comes to food, health care providers need to be forward-thinking.

"Certainly preventable care, which we feel healthy food is all about, takes a long time because people don't get healthy overnight," Allbee said.

People like Glenn Boyton, who is getting better every day.

Reporter Adam Sullivan: You are looking pretty good. They must be doing something right?
Glenn Boyton: I haven't lost a lot of weight here because of the food.

In this initial year, they hope to collect 2,000 pounds of tomatoes which will be eaten out in the community, rather than at the hospital, so fewer people will need treatment there down the road.