St. Mary’s Hospital for Children brings back Farm to Table program in Bayside

St. Mary's
Kids at St. Mary’s Hospital for Children take part in the Farm to Table program. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Kunz)

St. Mary’s Hospital for Children in Bayside has brought back its weekly Farm to Table program for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic.

The program, a favorite among the kids who occupy or frequent the facility, aims to promote nutrition education to the kids through hands-on gardening and cooking classes. This also helps them improve their motor skills.

St. Mary's
Kids at St. Mary’s Hospital for Children take part in the Farm to Table program. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Kunz)

According to Jillian Quinn of the hospital’s medical daycare program, Farm to Table helps some of the kids strengthen their muscles skills, as well as their social and listening skills, which they did not have the opportunity to do during the pandemic.

“[The program] teaches them how to cook and lets them bring home healthy recipes for their families,” Quinn said. “It promotes healthy eating and movement and the kids make a healthy recipe book.”

Shiney Joseph, the program’s nutritionist, said the kids and staff go to the nearby Garden World to choose the seeds for what food they want to plant in the garden on the grounds of the hospital. They also plant the seeds as part of their physical therapy.

According to Joseph, this will continue when the weather gets warmer, likely in May.

“The kids are involved in the preparation [of the food],” Joseph said. “They kept asking when the program would return. It took almost two years due to COVID-19 and then figuring out how to keep it safe for the kids.”

The kids measure the count sequence for the ingredients of the meals they help prepare. They also cut the fruits and vegetables they intend to put on their meals.

According to Joseph, the program also tries to expand the taste palettes of the kids by asking them to try the fruits or vegetables prepared for that day’s meal. She said this often leads the kids to discover the new foods they enjoy.

In addition to incorporating nutrition, rehabilitation and therapeutic recreation goals, the St. Mary’s Farm to Table program also advances vocational and life skills to better prepare participants to be self-reliant and productive members of their communities. The recipe books they make, which usually consist of around 24 recipes, help them maintain healthy diets at home.

Individuals in the program range from ages 6 to 21. The outpatients are picked up from community schools and dropped off at St. Mary’s, where the program will take place once a week.

Classes are divided into groups of around 14 each. One of the factors that help determine how they are divided is allergy considerations. Each class decides what they want to make each week.

For more information, visit stmaryskids.org.