Indianapolis Edition

Eskenazi Health Joins with Indy Urban Acres to Open Local Farm

There’s a new acre-and-a-half farm on the north side of Indy, established by Eskenazi Health and Indy Urban Acres, to provide fresh, healthy options for area food pantries, and address food insecurity. Located on the grounds of Eskenazi Health Center Pecar, the farm’s first planting of 2018 was completed with the help of 50 volunteers in late May.

“It’s our one-year anniversary,” says Dr. Deanna Reinoso, the center’s pediatrician and medical director. “We’re excited about the partnership with Indy Urban Acres to farm and have fresh produce being grown on our property because of what we know in medicine as how much what we eat impacts our long-term health.”

Ample medical studies show how where we live and our access to a nutritious diet really does impact our health, along with the quality of our lives and lifespan, Reinoso says. The Pecar farm’s genesis arose a few years ago from screening for food insecurities in the families served by the health center, Reinoso adds.

The center, which serves diverse populations, quickly learned the need for relief of food insecurities must be addressed. As a result, the Crooked Creek Food Pantry was established on site in 2015.

“We wanted our food pantry not only to be passing out things that were actually recommended [for a healthy diet], so we worked really hard to have fresh produce that we ourselves would like for healthy diets,” Reinoso says. “That led to partnering with Indy Urban Acres to increase the amount of produce we are able to have in our food pantry.”

So the on-site farm project was born. The new farm serves as another example of Eskenazi Health’s commitment to promoting healthful eating, and is a complement to The Sky Farm at Eskenazi Health, a 5,000-squarefoot gardening space located atop the Sandra Eskenazi Outpatient Care Center at the Eskenazi Health downtown campus, which was established in 2013.

The Pecar farm’s yield last year well exceeded expectations. The more than 11,000 pounds of produce, including eggplants, onions, cucumbers and winter squash, led to more than 57,000 servings of fresh produce for a retail value of $21,334. Also, all food produced was made available at the Crooked Creek Food Pantry, as well as additional food pantries in the area.

Indy Urban Acres is an eight-acre organic urban farm that supplies low-income Hoosiers with healthy fruits and vegetables. In a recent press release, Tyler Gough, farm manager of Indy Urban Acres who oversees the farm at Eskenazi Health Center Pecar, talked about how patients will benefit from the farm.

“I’m really excited about our partnership with Eskenazi Health Center Pecar,” he said. “It’s kind of neat to see a patient come to the center to see a doctor and then walk away with fresh produce after the visit. During the growing season patients will take home healthy fresh produce that’s free and grown right outside the health center, which is amazing. It’s a great arrangement.”

Patients that visit the clinic are just as excited about the farm as the center’s staff. “A lot of our families who take public transportation walk right past the farm area as they are coming back to clinic, so I think our patients are really excited that the produce they see being grown there is going through our food pantry,” Reinoso says.

The farm will also serve as an educational resource for youth programming and community organizations in the area so they can learn about the importance, benefits and value of urban gardens.

Several area organizations, including the Indianapolis Parks Foundation and Gleaners Food Bank, are also partnering with the farm to ensure that families in need have access to fresh, healthy foods. Reinoso is excited about what the future holds for the farm as there’s certainly space and a desire for expansion in the coming years. However, the focus is on this growing season.

“We are hoping to expand and bring in more compost and better topsoil so we don’t know exactly what our final numbers will be,” she says. “We are hoping for 20,000 pounds this season. Depending on how the growing season goes I am hopeful.”

Reinoso firmly believes Eskenazi is on the cutting edge of examining what food insecurity looks like and what preventative steps are necessary to end it.

“It means taking a look at how we can impact the health of the community,” Reinoso says. “I hope we can impact the other health centers to do the same to try to improve the health of our communities here in central Indiana by changing the way we think about nutrition and health and, when they need extra help, giving people the opportunity to have access to it. I look forward to seeing what we continue to do—expanding here—and I am certain that Eskenazi, through all of its health centers, will continue to work to make this an issue that changes lives and the health of our community.”

The farm at Eskenazi Health Center Pecar is located at 6940 N. Michigan Rd., Indianapolis. For more information, visit EskenaziHealth.edu. For more information about Indy Urban Acres, visit IndyParksFoundation.org/indy-urban-acres/.

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