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Uptown Farmers Market and Weiss’ Rooftop Farm Win Governor’s Hometown Award

Weiss earns Governors Home Town AwardLast month, Weiss became one of 28 Illinois organizations honored with the Governor’s Home Town Award. Weiss won for the volunteer-run Uptown Farmers Market and Urban Rooftop Farm.

“We are honored to accept this award,” says Terry Tuohy, director of volunteer services. “A lot of hard work has gone into planting and growing our urban farm and farmers market, so we’re thrilled to see the fruits of our labor be acknowledged in this way.”

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity administers the Governor’s Home Town Awards Program annually. Each of the award-winning communities receives a road sign and plaque recognizing its efforts. This year’s 28 projects combined represent the work of more than 4,300 volunteers who devoted nearly 78,000 hours of their time, equating to more than $1.7 million in value. Nearly $1.3 million in private funds and materials were raised for these projects.

A group of volunteer judges who reviewed and ranked applications based on community need, use of resources and results chose the award recipients. They judged projects by population category as well as overall project category, including services and mentorship, memorials and monuments, parks and recreation, beautification and sustainability, and history and historic preservation. Weiss won in the general category.

Weiss’ Urban Rooftop Farm and Uptown Farmers Market began two years ago. The market runs every Thursday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. From June through October, it takes place in the hospital’s parking lot, and from November to May in the lobby.

Urban farmers Will Pool and Jed Schenkier supply some of the market’s crops by growing them on the hospital’s parking garage roof. They use compost from food waste collected at the hospital and throughout the community and hydrate the crops with water collected in giant rain barrels. The farmers also maintain an apiary of 300,000 bees, which pollinate within a 3-mile radius of Weiss and produce honey for the market.

Weiss funds the projects and organizes the market, while Schenkier and Pool maintain the farm. So far, a total of 38 volunteers with an annual time commitment of 500 hours have participated in the effort. Weiss has contributed $25,000 for supplies such as farming tools, seeds and signage.

“The volunteers we are recognizing truly exemplify the best Illinois has to offer by going above and beyond to make their communities better places to live,” Governor Pat Quinn says. “By investing their time and talent, these individuals are not only supporting their neighbors, but also uplifting the entire state.”

“Weiss Memorial Hospital has taken preventative care to a new level with its farmers market and rooftop garden,” says State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago). “Weiss excels at bringing the community together around the concepts of living healthily and eating well, as evidenced by their efforts to make fresh, locally grown foods accessible in the Uptown neighborhood.”

The hospital has experienced a number of successes in helping its diverse community achieve health for life:

  • 12,000+ visitors purchased fresh produce and learned healthy living
  • 100+ children from local schools and park districts educated on healthy eating
  • 4 community-focused organizations connected with their neighbors
  • 2 soup kitchens benefited from donated fruits, vegetables and herbs

The ultimate goal of the project is to make Weiss a place where people can go to learn to be healthy, not just when they are ill. The hospital strives to make healthy eating accessible to everyone from senior citizens to young children—no matter their ethnicity or income level. In addition, Weiss hopes the urban farm and farmers market will inspire other people in the area to start growing their own food in whatever available space they have—backyards, rooftops or even kitchen windows.

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