The Uptown Farmers Market returned to the South Parking Lot at Weiss on June 23rd. It will run every Thursday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. through October 27th.
“Being healthy starts with food,” says Terry Tuohy, director of volunteer services at Weiss. Tuohy envisioned the market—along with a rooftop farm—as a way to make a social impact on the diverse neighborhood the hospital serves, from senior citizens and young families to people living below poverty level.
A main focus of the market continues to be the children of the community. Last year, local school children from Goudy Elementary School visited the market to learn about healthy eating, and this year park district groups also will tour the market.
“Our most pressing concern in the community is diabetes, and the first step to combating it is eating right,” says Tuohy. “If people learn proper eating [habits] early in life, Weiss will make a difference, especially with pre-diabetes.”
According to the American Diabetes Association, an estimated 79 million people in the United States are pre-diabetic, a condition characterized by higher-than-normal blood sugar levels that precede Type 2 diabetes. Food plays a major role in whether or not the disease develops further.
Some of the food available at the Uptown Farmers Market comes from half a block away, atop Weiss’ parking garage roof. The hospital has partnered with community farmers and volunteers to nurture an urban farm in the middle of a cement city. The food grown is donated to local soup kitchens and sold at the market.
Farmers Jed Schenkier and Will Pool have set up 20 planter boxes around the rim of the parking garage and built 15 raised beds, containing seasonal fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, spinach, watermelon and basil. They plant their crops using compost from food waste collected at the hospital and throughout the community; they hydrate the crops with water collected in rain barrels. The farmers also maintain an apiary of 150,000 bees, which pollinate within a 3-mile radius of Weiss.
“One rooftop garden is not going to change everything, but it’s part of a movement. We’re part of a movement,” says Schenkier.
Managing the Uptown Farmers Market at Weiss is part of the hospital’s Health for Life initiative, which emphasizes healthy living habits for people of all ages. The community also can engage with the effort online through the Health for Life blog. For more information, visit WeissHospital.com.