A partnership between the Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools (MCVTS) and Hackensack Meridian Health Raritan Bay Medical Center-Perth Amboy has resulted in culinary students working in the hospital kitchen and others volunteering at the hospital.
“It’s a great partnership,” Perth Amboy Tech Principal Robert Fuller said. “Any time we can help out in the community and build these bonds, we will help out any way we can.”
Chef Stephen Moir, the school’s culinary instructor, said the collaboration began with an offer from Raritan Bay-Perth Amboy to donate excess produce from their “Learning Garden” to the culinary program at the school. The garden is part of a community nutrition program initiated by the hospital’s Integrative Health & Medicine program, and is funded by Raritan Bay’s medical staff. Since that initial overture, three culinary students have gone to work in the hospital kitchen and other students have begun volunteering.
“It’s a nice way to work together,” Moir said. “It’s a good start. We also spoke about getting our kids’ hands dirty and doing some planting next season. Part of the criteria for our certification as a 3-star green restaurant is utilizing locally grown, organic produce, making our partnership with the Learning Garden ideal.” The Green Restaurant Association granted the certification, which recognizes restaurants that are environmentally sustainable in energy, water, waste, food, chemicals, disposables and construction.
Perth Amboy Tech’s carpentry program, led by instructor Edward White, will build above-ground containers for the spring planting at the medical center. Nina Regevik, M.D., ABIHM, medical director of the medical center’s Integrative Health & Medicine program, said Master Gardener Connie Elek, from Rutgers University’s Cooperative Extension Program, has assisted the gardening effort since its launch in 2015, providing her expertise, and educational gardening sessions for the public, which has produced kale, beans, tomatoes, eggplant, tomatillos, peppers, broccoli, potatoes and collards, as well as marjoram and other herbs.
“We launched the integrative health program at Raritan Bay in 2004 and have been expanding ever since,” Dr. Regevik said. “Our goal is to empower our community with a healthy balance of mind, body, and spirit, through integrative health initiatives, wellness education, and services. The Learning Garden is a perfect example of Hackensack Meridian Health Integrative Health & Medicine’s Five Pillars of Health and Wellness; including the physical activity of gardening which provides a sense of purpose and stress reduction, and results in nutritious, organic produce.”
Sustainability is also a priority for Hackensack Meridian Health, as the system works to reduce waste, minimize the use of hazardous materials, limit patient and team member exposure to dangerous toxins, prevent pollution, serve healthier foods, and more.
“It’s been a wonderful learning opportunity for our students,” said MCVTS Superintendent of Schools Dianne D. Veilleux. MCVTS administrators said they hope to expand the partnership to include the East Brunswick and Piscataway campuses and Raritan Bay Medical Center-Old Bridge.
“We also want to develop avenues to include our health care programs,” said Sean McDonald, MCVTS director of career and technical education. “That’s the next place to grow.” Students from MCVTS’ Project Employ have also worked in the hospital’s garden the past two summers.
Volunteers are needed to help expand and maintain The Learning Garden, for more information call Raritan Bay’s Integrative Health & Medicine program at 732-324-5257.
The Middlesex County Vocational and Technical School District, the first full-time county vocational school district in the nation, has seven schools on five campuses, in East Brunswick, Edison, Piscataway, Perth Amboy and Woodbridge. More information is available at www.mcvts.net.
ABOUT HACKENSACK MERIDIAN HEALTH
Hackensack Meridian Health is a leading not-for-profit health care organization that is the most comprehensive and truly integrated health care network in New Jersey, offering a complete range of medical services, innovative research and life-enhancing care. Hackensack Meridian Health comprises 16 hospitals from Bergen to Ocean counties, which includes three academic medical centers – Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, JFK Medical Center in Edison; two children’s hospitals – Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital in Hackensack, K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital in Neptune; 11 community hospitals – Ocean Medical Center in Brick, Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, Mountainside Medical Center in Montclair, Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen, Raritan Bay Medical Center in Perth Amboy, Southern Ocean Medical Center in Manahawkin, Bayshore Medical Center in Holmdel, Raritan Bay Medical Center in Old Bridge, and Pascack Valley Medical Center in Westwood, JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute in Edison and Shore Rehabilitation Institute in Brick.
Additionally, the network has more than 160 patient care locations throughout the state which include ambulatory care centers, surgery centers, home health services, long-term care and assisted living communities, ambulance services, lifesaving air medical transportation, fitness and wellness centers, rehabilitation centers, and urgent care and after-hours centers. Hackensack Meridian Health has 33,000 team members, and 6,500 physicians and is a distinguished leader in health care philanthropy, committed to the health and well-being of the communities it serves.
The network’s notable distinctions include having one of only five major academic medical centers in the nation to receive Healthgrades America’s 50 Best Hospitals Award for five or more consecutive years, four hospitals among the top 10 in New Jersey, including Hackensack University Medical Center which is ranked No. 1 by U.S. News and World Report. Other honors include consistently achieving Magnet® recognition for nursing excellence from the American Nurses Credentialing Center, recipient of the John M. Eisenberg Award for Patient Safety and Quality from The Joint Commission and the National Quality Forum, a six-time recipient of Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For,” one of the “20 Best Workplaces in Health Care” in the nation, and the number one “Best Place to Work for Women.” Hackensack Meridian Health is a member of AllSpire Health Partners, an interstate consortium of leading health systems, to focus on the sharing of best practices in clinical care and achieving efficiencies.
For additional information, please visit www.HackensackMeridianHealth.org.