May 26—ANDERSON — As prices for seemingly every kind of food continue to rise, officials at Community Hospital Anderson see the expansion of their Community Farm as providing an important resource to residents.
Ground was broken earlier this month on a project that will add at least two acres of growing space, a community center with a full kitchen, two greenhouses and other amenities to property at the hospital's main campus. When the farm opened in 2018, officials said a vision existed to expand it, along with its programming. In fact, the project was scheduled to begin in March 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic scuttled those plans.
"We've been waiting for the right time, and we finally decided that here in 2022 would be the time to go ahead and do the expansion," said Tom Bannon, vice president of community engagement and chief foundation officer at Community Hospital Anderson.
Bannon pointed to the planned community center, which he said will be available to rent for wedding receptions, graduation parties and other events, as the centerpiece of the hospital's planned outreach. The kitchen, he added, will host cooking classes and other sessions where residents can learn to more effectively use the resources the farm provides. He noted that Community Hospital currently distributes about 15,000 pounds of produce, free of charge, to residents. The goal this year, he added, is to double that figure.
"There's lots of components to public health, and food insecurity is just one," Bannon said. "This helps address some food insecurity."
The classes and other activities will provide an additional dimension, hedging against the farm's offerings going to waste, officials said.
"It's important for people to understand not only where their food comes from, but to know how to grow their own food," said Mikkal Hodge, farm project coordinator at Community Hospital. "It's important for people to know how to do that, and I feel like we've sort of lost that in our current generation."
The convenience of big box grocery stores and other vendors, he added, has made produce a routine part of many consumers' menus — which is not always a good thing.
"We have the ability to go get food without knowing what's in season, where it comes from," Hodge said. "A lot of people expect to go pick up a quart of strawberries or a bag of tomatoes without really realizing what goes into producing them."
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