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Rooftop garden shines a light on creating healthier environments

Dr. G. Alan Yeasted was surprised one day — he was working in the rooftop garden when he heard a knocking on the window behind him. Turning around, he saw a patient giving him a thumbs up from inside the hospital, where the garden was in full view. Rows of tomatoes, peppers, and herbs grace one of the lower rooftops of St. Clair Health as part of the initiative to create healthier environments. Our resident gardener, Dr. Yeasted, explains that the thought behind the garden was to facilitate healthier lifestyles by providing fresh produce for those in need in the community. “St. Clair has changed its focus, so while we still treat diseases, we also want to prevent illness whenever we possibly can,” says Dr. Yeasted. “And this includes not just ensuring that people get enough to eat, but that the foods they eat are healthy and full of nutrients.” This garden is a part of St. Clair Health that patients can enjoy, too. “You can see it from the hospital,” says Dr. Yeasted. “Including the gardeners!”

St. Clair Health partnered with Pete Donati & Sons florists in the South Hills and South Hills Interfaith Movement (SHIM) to bring this garden to life. We would also like to thank our board member, Dan Long, for donating a watering system for the garden. While Donati & Sons assisted in the set-up of the garden and increasing the output of the produce, SHIM assisted with identifying community needs and distribution. “We deliver to the food pantry at SHIM as often as once a week, giving fresh produce to people who just don’t have access to it,” says Dr. Yeasted. “People will come once or twice a week to pick up groceries.” Donati & Sons also grows produce at their shop to supplement the garden.

To decide what goes in the garden each year, Dr. Yeasted and his team have a meeting with the Garden Director at SHIM to make sure they are addressing the needs of the community, “ As we move to the future, St. Clair Health has the right attitude. Everyone is looking to do what we can to improve the community.” while also allowing for the rooftop’s unique growing conditions. “We consider everything from what people did or did not use in the past year to immigrant communities who may be looking for foods not easily found in grocery stores. It is curated for the local community,” says Dr. Yeasted. They have found that peppers, tomatoes, squashes, and other produce grown lower to the ground perform well and are often high-demand crops.

“This food program has done a lot of good for a lot of people,” says Dr. Yeasted. “We have delivered over 200 pounds of food in one year, which are meals on the table for many in the community.” Dr. Yeasted is looking at expanding this program, but the team would need to find the right rooftop and increase the number of volunteers first. “There is a lot of potential here. It just shows we can all work together to make a healthier community.”

About Dr. G. Alan Yeasted, Senior Vice President & Chief Medical Officer Emeritus
Dr. G. Alan Yeasted is a physician specializing in internal medicine who has been practicing for over 43 years. Once the Chief Medical Officer at St. Clair Hospital, he now sits on the Community Benefit Committee and plays a significant role in the rooftop garden project.