Einstein’s Rooftop Garden Expands with Help from Local High School Students

By on 08/23/2018

Einstein’s rooftop garden in Norristown has grown, thanks to a team effort involving a group of student volunteers from Methacton High School in Eagleville, Pa. Earlier this month, the students visited the garden to build two new soil beds and plant fall vegetables, as well as harvest tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and green beans.

The garden, which is located on the roof of the parking garage at Einstein Healthcare Network’s Nicholas and Athena Karabots Medical Building, now contains 12 4- by 4-foot raised soil beds. The beds are home to a variety of herbs and vegetables, including zucchini, onions and oregano, in addition to those harvested by the students.

The garden’s produce is distributed to patients at the Genuardi Family Maternal Health Center, Einstein Medical Center Montgomery’s outpatient prenatal- and postnatal-care facility for underserved populations, which is located within the Karabots Medical Building. The program expanded this year to include patients at Montgomery Family Practice, which is also in the Karabots Building.

“We had a need for more produce since we’re serving more people this year,” said Brandi Chawaga, director of Einstein’s Community Wellness Department. “In addition to the extra garden beds, we’ve also extended our growing season with new produce that will take us into the fall.”

The Community Wellness Department built the garden last spring with funding from the Montgomery County Health Department. The Health Department provided additional funding this year to pay for the materials needed to build the new garden boxes as well as the soil to fill them. Greener Partners, a local nonprofit devoted to increasing public access to fresh produce, donated the plants.

Rev. Sung Won Paek, a cultural development specialist at Einstein who oversees the network’s student-volunteer programs, arranged the Methacton students’ involvement in the garden expansion. The project provided an opportunity for the young volunteers to experience one of the subtler, yet still critically important, aspects of the healthcare industry.

“Our work is about more than just healing patients,” explained Rev. Paek. “The students had the opportunity today to learn more about how our communities work together to support those in need.”

While the garden will yield its final produce of the year in November, it will continue to serve as a source of learning, inspiration and collaboration year-round.

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