Weiss Memorial Hospital’s Urban Rooftop Farm & Uptown Farmers Market Produces Plenty of Learning in its 5th Season



CHICAGO (Aug. 13, 2014) — At Weiss Memorial Hospital’s growing Urban Rooftop Farm and Uptown Farmers Market— Chicago’s only hospital-based farmers market—healthy eating is being emphasized in new ways: special student educational tours and greater community accessibility to farming and medical expertise.With the harvesting of tomatoes, eggplant and peppers, and the planting of fall foods such as cauliflower, pumpkins and kale during the month of July comes a Health for Life initiative, which emphasizes healthy living habits for people of all ages.

“We want Weiss to be a place where people can learn to be healthy, not only be treated for an illness,” said Terry Tuohy, director of volunteer services at Weiss and mastermind behind the urban farm and farmers market.

Starting July 17 through August 14, dozens of school-aged children involved in Chicago Park District and community organization programs toured the urban farm, positioned atop Weiss’ parking garage. The students learned about topics as varied as soil erosion, composting, water conservation techniques and how vegetable seedlings in the greenhouse take root.

On the tour, children learn about Weiss’s chicken coop, home to almost two dozen chickens producing organic eggs and an apiary of 500,000 bees, which pollinate flowering plants within a 3-mile radius of the hospital and produced about five gallons of honey this season.

The Thursday tours end at the Farmers Market with children eating fresh fruits and vegetables, and acquiring more information on healthy eating from a dietitian, doctor or other health-care professional.

Weiss plans to continue the tours in the fall reaching out to neighborhood Chicago Public Schools.

“Our main concern in this community is obesity and diabetes,” Tuohy added. “If we educate children about eating right, the hope is they will carry these habits into adulthood and combat these diseases.”

As part of its community outreach, Weiss also engages Uptown area community members to cultivate a plot in the urban farm’s raised planter boxes. Twenty new beds were developed this season, bringing the total number to 75. Some 50 neighborhood “farmers” – ages ranging from 3 to 70+ – toil in the soil. Weiss volunteer farmers Will Pool and Jed Schenkier take the lead, nurturing the crop and coaching community members in their growing efforts.

The Uptown Farmers Market and Urban Rooftop Farm at Weiss received the 2011 Governor’s Home Town Award, which recognized the hospital for going above and beyond in making its community a better place to live.

Some of the successes already experienced in helping its diverse community achieve Health for Life over the past four years:

  • 23,200+ visitors purchased fresh produce and learned healthy living
  • 200+ children from local schools and park districts educated on healthy eating
  • 4 community-focused organizations connected with their neighbors
  • 2 soup kitchens and 5 food pantries benefited from donated produce

And with each passing year, Weiss digs deeper roots with its preventive care initiative. To all attendees of the Farmers Market, essential healthy eating information is available. Also, an “Ask about Healthy Eating” session will takes place the last Thursday of each month (Aug. 28, Sept. 25, and Oct. 30). In addition, Weiss regularly integrates free health screenings on-site.

Weiss’ Farmer Market vendors offer fruits, vegetables, bread, honey, meat, cheese, tamales, dried soups, jewelry and soaps. They, along with patrons of the farmers market, donate fresh fruits and vegetables weekly to various community hunger organizations.

The Farmers Market accepts VISA, MasterCard, Discover, American Express and Illinois LINK Cards for neighbors eligible for cash assistance from State government. An estimated 10,000 households in Uptown use LINK cards.

The 2014 Outdoor Uptown Farmers Market runs every Thursday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., June 5 through October 30 at Weiss, 4646 N. Marine Dr., Chicago.

Find out more about the farmer’s market and urban farm, or engage with the effort online through the Health for Life blog.

For more information contact:
Weiss Public Relations
(773) 564-7285