South-West Regional Health Authority CEO Dr Brian Armour, left, receives the first Pak Choi from the San Fernando General Hospital’s Culinary Medicine Food Park Wednesday. Joining him in the first harvest are Technical Director of Health Services Support Programme at the Ministry of Health, Renee Franklin and Inter-American Development Bank Senior Health Specialist Ian Ho-a-Shu.

As it stands, 90 per cent of citizens in Trinidad and Tobago eat less than the recommended daily serving of fruits and vegetables which aid healthy lifestyles.

To serve better food to its patients, the South-West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) launched its Culinary Medicine Food Park at the San Fernando General Hospital Wednesday.

It is a farm-to- hospital bed initiative that aims to improve food quality from the Nutritional and Dietetic Department.

Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Senior Health Specialist Ian Ho-a-Shu and SWRHA CEO Dr Brian Armour harvested the first crops from the hydroponic system.

Overseen by nutrition aids at the ground floor, the first crops were fine thyme, pak choi, lettuce and chive, which were ready just five weeks after setting up the system.

According to Primary Care Physician II Dr Sandi Arthur, the hospital is the first in T&T and joins Cancer Treatment Centres of America in Phoenix, Arizona and the Hawaii State Hospital which have all improved their nutritious offerings with food from their onsite farms. Sandi said the park would supplement the patient needs. The SWRHA aims to have fields set up at other health facilities, including Point Fortin Hospital, New Horizons Centre in Piparo and other health centres.

Ho-a-Shu said that because people eat fewer vegetables and fruits than they should, it provides an opportunity for patients who do not usually follow a balanced diet to be exposed to healthy food and proper nutrition while in admittance.

“I must reiterate how pleased the IDB is to be partnering with the SWRHA on this initiative and how it fits neatly with the objectives of the IDB funded US$51 million Health Services Programme. It supports activities for healthy lifestyles to address Non-Communicable Diseases, which sadly, accounts for more than 70 per cent of premature deaths in T&T,” Ho-a-Shu said.

Armour stressed the importance of a balanced meal, saying that it is often the difference between life and death. He said that despite the country’s economic challenges, there is a need for creativity and innovation in balancing the SWRHA’s budget while spending wisely on patient care. It includes purchasing goods for meals and beverage.

Armour said the food park is in alignment with the SWRHA’s strategic plan for 2020-2023. He said that as an organisation, it is focused on improving client experience and health outcomes.

“The primary goal of this initiative is to promote sustainable production of fresh, safe and nutritious food while ensuring and maintaining a consistent supply and diversity to our patients,” Armour said.