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Parkview Health Learning Center and Greenhouse

March 2021
Member Project


DesignTeam Plus

 




Parkview Health administrators identified a group of internal and external stakeholders to participate in a visioning process, and in 2015, hospital leadership engaged DesignTeam Plus, a Michigan-based Architectural and Interior Design Firm, to conduct a one-day Design Charrette. This intensive, collaborative process included a zoning review; a brainstorming session; funding and branding discussions; an overview of urban agriculture; and a democratic voting process to determine non-negotiables and to set aside activities that could be left for future phases. As a result of the facilitated discussions, the group arrived at a set of shared goals and priorities including: To engage nutritionists to teach the community how to grow and cook healthy foods; to hire master gardeners to work side by side with children to assist with teaching how to garden/grow food; and to seek opportunities to donate produce to those in greatest need. The vision for the 3,000 square-foot Parkview Learning Kitchen and Greenhouse was born.  In 2018, they unveiled the Learning Kitchen and Greenhouse to support patients and residents of the surrounding area who suffer from food insecurity.

 

CHALLENGE

How can a large health care provider use creative design principles to proactively improve the health of the community it serves, and empower its constituents to participate in enhancing their own individual well-being?  Parkview Health, a large nonprofit health system headquartered in Fort Wayne, serves residents of northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio through inpatient and outpatient facilities, physician offices, and affiliate entities. Through routine needs assessments, community health needs are identified, including food equity/access to fresh produce. Alleviating food insecurity through education and access to low-cost, healthy foods requires support from hospital administrators and area governmental and social service agencies, and a physical location on campus to serve as a learning center and greenhouse where these activities would take place. 

 

SOLUTION

Parkview Health administrators identified a group of internal and external stakeholders to participate in a visioning process, and in 2015, hospital leadership engaged DesignTeam Plus, a Michigan-based Architectural and Interior Design Firm, to conduct a one-day Design Charrette. This intensive, collaborative process included a zoning review; a brainstorming session; funding and branding discussions; an overview of urban agriculture; and a democratic voting process to determine non-negotiables and to set aside activities that could be left for future phases. As a result of the facilitated discussions, the group arrived at a set of shared goals and priorities including: To engage nutritionists to teach the community how to grow and cook healthy foods; to hire master gardeners to work side by side with children to assist with teaching how to garden/grow food; and to seek opportunities to donate produce to those in greatest need. The vision for the 3,000 square-foot Parkview Learning Kitchen and Greenhouse was born.

“A significant portion of our community is a food dessert, and to pull everyone together in one day to build the Learning Kitchen and Greenhouse, to transform the lives of those we serve through education, well, you could feel the energy in the room,” Sue Ehinger, a former Parkview executive, recalled. “We were exhilarated.”

Parkview Lead Community Outreach Registered Dietitian Kathy Wehrle, who also participated in the Charrette, agreed. “The design charrette allowed us to dream,” she said. “A diverse set of community members weighed in, and we now get lifesaving produce to those who need it most.”

Today, the Learning Kitchen and Greenhouse sit adjacent to the Parkview Behavioral Health Institute, which provides inpatient and outpatient mental health and addictions services. During the months of July through September, a weekly farmers’ market takes place where SNAP dollars are doubled for those who spend them at the market; a multigenerational audience attends hands-on educational classes; and the greenhouse offers tours and classes, as well as supplies produce to where it’s needed most. The pandemic has resulted in doing many things differently, like offering virtual nutrition, cooking and gardening classes as well as making changes to the summer/fall farmers’ market, to ensure all necessary pandemic safety precautions are followed. Other nearby properties have subsequently been renovated or occupied by healthcare providers, “transforming the entire neighborhood,” said Charles Clark, President of Parkview Behavioral Health Institute. “The possibilities are endless,” he added. “Gardening and farming are part of the healing arts - they have a therapeutic effect. I can see the kitchen and greenhouse being incorporated into many future programs.”
 

KEY FINDINGS

The link between nutrition and health is evident. “Clinical markers change when someone begins to eat more produce - their blood pressure goes down, they may lose weight, their blood sugar levels may normalize. It gives people hope that they can turn around a disease, such as diabetes,” said Wehrle.

In addition to its many concrete achievements, the “good neighbor effects” of positively impacting the community when proper nutrition becomes available to those who need it most, are as important, said participants. The initial vision aligns with today’s outcomes, “and the process by which we arrived where we are today,” Ehinger said, was a “worthwhile investment.”

 


 

Links To Published Articles On The Project