Locally grown fruits and vegetables are difficult to find during Chicago winters. However, the local famers who brought delicious fruits and vegetables to the Weiss community this summer continue to make healthy eating possible for our patients, visitors and employees.
Every other Thursday, a handful of sellers set up in the Medical Office Building’s Leland Lobby, offering passers-by apples, jam, cider, cheese, meat, bread, pasta and sauce—all produced locally.
Weiss administrators decided to host the market outdoors last spring, in order to bring the ideas behind the hospital’s “Health for Life” initiative to the community. Health for Life proposes that maintaining key health factors (such as body mass index, blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol, exercise and diet) will lead to a healthy life.
Terry Tuohy, director of volunteer services at Weiss, led the charge in finding a way to bring the idea to life. “What could we do to get thinking outside the box?” she said. Before long, she had found an answer: “Being healthy starts with food.”
When the outdoor market ended in October, and fall began to turn to winter, Tuohy invited produce sellers to move indoors. One of the vendors who made the move, Rhonda Radtke and her husband, Phil, drive to Chicago from Berrien Springs, Mich. for the Weiss market. They bring fresh apples, jams and cider. “It gives people the opportunity to not have to wait six months (for the outdoor markets),” said Rhonda Radtke.
Across the lobby, Steve Spoerl of Farm Fresh Food Stuffs, sells pasta, sauce, meat, cheese and treats for pets. He gathers the products from local farms and small businesses. “Everything we sell is from northern Illinois. I want my customers to be able to verify where their food is coming from,” Spoerl said.
He labels his products with the producer’s name, enabling buyers to look up the producer and visit the farm or business for themselves. Spoerl, of Naperville, also makes home deliveries throughout the Chicago area.
At last week’s market, he gave out samples of apricot sausage, made from a recipe that combined Spoerl’s brats and Radtke Farm’s apricot jam. Market browsers reacted enthusiastically, taking copies of the recipe to try at home.
“We’ll do this as long as we can,” said Rhonda Radtke, whose apple supply is dwindling. “Then we’ll be back as soon as the asparagus and strawberries are ready for us.”
The next Winter Farmer’s Market will be Thursday, Jan. 13 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Leland Lobby at Weiss.