Lindsey Regallis thought making a simple, light dish and a cool beverage to go with it would be perfect for a hot summer day in Savannah. So she picked some cucumbers straight from the garden and got to work making a basic cucumber salad and cucumber infused water. Sounds like a typical lunchtime routine, right? What makes it unique is that Lindsey, a WIC nutritionist, got the cucumber from the Chatham County Health Department garden and then took it into a state-of-the-art kitchen inside the health department to demonstrate the recipe for WIC clients.
Lindsey Regallis: WIC nutritionist, Lindsey Regallis, uses some fresh vegetables from the Chatham County Health Department garden in the state-of-the-art WIC kitchen which is complete with a mirror above the counter space so WIC clients can better see how Lindsey prepares healthy recipes.
Using fresh vegetables from an on-site garden is part of an ongoing initiative to encourage both health department clients and staff to live a healthier lifestyle. The garden is the brainchild of Chatham County Health Department Facilities Maintenance Manager, Adam Stroup. The fully equipped WIC kitchen is one of the distinct features of the new health department facility that opened its doors a year ago. Put them together and you’ve got a recipe for success.
“During our demonstrations we use foods that can be purchased with the WIC vouchers while incorporating foods that are in our Chatham County Health Department garden,” said Regallis. “This gives our participants the opportunity to learn nutritious ways to utilize their WIC foods and try new foods and recipes. It also helps them learn new techniques in the kitchen.”
WIC clients aren’t the only ones benefitting from the fresh vegetables that are being harvested at the health department. Through a program called “Healthy Home Spotlight,” health department staff members are encouraged to submit healthy recipes to the Safety and Wellness Committee. Each week at least one recipe is randomly selected and the person who submitted the winning recipe is given a basket to fill with any vegetables from the garden. Since the garden is producing so many vegetables – more than 97 pounds since May – vegetables that aren’t used by Healthy Home Spotlight winners are being distributed to some of the other health department locations. Plans are in the works to expand the program even more.
“We hope to begin making the garden available to all health department clients very soon,” said Chatham County Health Department Administrator, Randy McCall, Ph.D. “Our goal is to improve nutrition and access to healthier foods that will hopefully lead to healthier habits for clients and staff.”
The large garden is currently home to squash, cucumber, green beans, a variety of peppers, and both yellow and red tomatoes while okra, fresh herbs, and sweet yellow corn are growing in a smaller garden located in the facility’s courtyard.
CCHD Garden (L to R): Lindsey Regallis, Sabaya Richardson, Rhonda Victor, Cathy Schmid, Adam Stroup, Marty Trosper, and Jalyn Manor show off some of the vegetables in the Chatham County Health Department Garden. Sabaya, Rhonda, and Cathy have all submitted “Healthy Home Spotlight” recipes.
The gardens are tended by the Chatham County Health Department maintenance team which includes Daniel Boyd, Marty Trosper, and Jalyn Manor. Other employees, such as Rhonda Victor, also help with upkeep of the garden and even contribute by donating seeds for planting. Chatham County Health Department Nurse Manager, Cathy Schmid, is a fan of the green space and was a recent Healthy Homes Spotlight winner.
“The gardens have had a great impact on our employees and our clients,” said Schmid. “Our weekly healthy recipe contest has encouraged our team members to find and submit recipes that we can share with the entire staff and using fresh produce in our WIC nutrition demonstration classes has been a big hit.”
The Chatham County Health Department prides itself on being as “green” as possible. In fact, the health department was awarded Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Gold status by the U.S. Green Building Council in April. In keeping with the green concept, the garden is truly organic. No chemical insecticides or non-natural fertilizers are used.
“The garden is just a small part of what we are trying to accomplish here,” said McCall. “We are really focused on finding ways for our staff and our clients to make healthier choices.”