Come to the Table: Integrating Nutrition into Healthcare in the Midwest

Can you imagine a day when healthcare is mostly proactive as opposed to reactive? When everyone has access to the vital conditions for health and wellbeing, the factors that people depend on to reach their full potential?

What does that future look like? How will we know when we’ve achieved that future? What do we need to do to get there?

One way we’ll know that we’ve achieved this future is that nutrition security will be accessible to all and diet-related illnesses will no longer be the leading cause of death in the United States, especially for people of color who are currently at greatest risk.

Getting to that future will take creativity, funding, and determination. The White House’s commitment to ending hunger and increasing healthy eating and physical activity by 2030 is an important goal to work toward. Part of the national strategy entails integrating nutrition and healthcare. Something I work on every day in my role as the Regional Director of Farming and Healthy Lifestyles for the Farm at Trinity Health, one of the nation’s oldest hospital-based farms.

On March 24, 2023, we were pleased to host more than 150 key stakeholders in Ann Arbor, MI for the USDA’s second regional summit on nutrition security and healthcare, Come to the Table. The summit, organized by Promedica and The Root Cause Coalition, builds on the momentum of the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. Attendees heard from officials such as Senator Debbie Stabenow, Secretary Xavier Becerra of the Department of Health and Human Services, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsak, and Deputy Under Secretary of Food and Nutrition Services Stacy Dean. The unified message attendees heard from those officials was that we have a problem in this country with lack of nutrition security and health, and we must come together to fix it.

Alonzo Lewis, President of Trinity Health Ann Arbor, set the tone for the day with his opening remarks.

The rest of the meeting was set up to share best practices from a set of four groups of panelists, and to give attendees and presenters a chance to have meaningful dialogue.

In one panel, we heard from healthcare representatives about why their health systems choose to invest in nutrition security. What I heard from panelists was that nutrition security is out of reach for many of their patients and this is deeply frustrating because the accumulated impact of poor nutrition makes the job of a healthcare provider exponentially harder. I also heard the commitment of those health systems to creating positive change both within their facilities and out in the communities they serve. Alfreda Rooks, Director of Community Health Services for Michigan Medicine, spoke about their efforts to get healthy food and preventative care embedded in the community with their Project Healthy Schools programs and Ypsilanti Community High School | RAHS Health Centers (

In another panel, we heard about the various challenges of hunger across the age spectrum. Programs like Connecting Kids to Meals in Ohio takes on the enormous task of feeding children afterschool and in the summers. The organization, which has served 6 million hungry children since 2002, is a needed program, but also highlights the deep and pervasive nature of hunger and nutrition insecurity in our country.

In panel four we heard from various government agencies about a whole government approach to addressing hunger as a health issue.

The panel I moderated saw a lively discussion about how healthcare and the emergency food

Pictured left to right: Amanda Sweetman, Regional Director of Farming and Healthy Lifestyles for Trinity MI; Stacy Dean, Deputy Undersecretary USDA; Jae Gerhart, Farm Manager for Trinity Health Ann Arbor.

system can work to address hunger as a health issue. Our panelists, Markell Miller, Director of Community Food Programs at Food Gatherers, Dawn Opel, Chief Innovation Officer at the Food Bank Council of Michigan, and Matt Habash, President and CEO of the Mid-Ohio Collective, highlighted an ever-growing need for emergency food and that while food banks and pantries are working to provide more and healthier foods, nutrition security cannot be guaranteed through emergency food. As Matt pointed out, “we can’t program our way out of hunger, we, as a society will have to decide to do something about it.” I agree wholeheartedly.

In my work at The Farm at Trinity Health I am honored to both work on addressing the immediate needs of our community through food assistance programming and on a brighter future by investing in sustainable food systems and our local farm economy. A highlight of the summit for me was the opportunity to give attendees a tour of our hospital-based farm.

A few highlights about The Farm at Trinity Health:

  • Two locations: Ypsilanti, MI and Pontiac, MI.

    A summer farm share

  • Mission: To grow a healthy community by empowering people through food, education, and relationships.
  • Programs:
    • Collaborative Farm Share (also known as a Community Supported Agriculture) program. We aggregate produce from 20+ local farms annually. The program generated $300,000 in local farm revenue in 2022 and over $1M in farm revenue since 2015. We distributed 15,460 produce boxes in 2022 to 350 families over the 36-week season. Our Farm Share Assistance program provides free or reduced cost membership to 100+ families/year.
    • Produce to Patients: We believe that food is medicine and make it easy for patients and healthcare workers to have access to produce by donating 15,554 pounds of produce to 22,339 patients and healthcare workers in 2022.

      Kids love the Farm’s Summer Camp

    • Education: Access to healthy food is only the first step toward better health outcomes. People must also know what to do with it. Our education programs include field trips, summer camp, and cooking classes.
    • Horticultural Therapy: physical, occupational, and behavioral health therapies offered at our handicap accessible hoop house.

To wrap up, my key takeaway from the March 24th meeting was that while great work is happening across the Midwest region and beyond, there is more to be done. We as a society must decide to invest in creating the vital conditions for all including guaranteeing access to healthy food, investing in the health of our planet, and creating systems that will generate positive outcomes for all.

It is up to all of us to advocate for this positive future. Contact your elected officials, make sure you’re registered to vote, and support programs in your communities that are doing the hard work of meeting the needs of people today.




CSA Week: Spinach and Ramp Frittata

A spring Farm Share featuring locally foraged ramps, far right

We love this fresh spring frittata to showcase some of our favorite early season greens. Substitute ramps with diced leeks as needed, or add asparagus for a more robust flavor.


  • 10 large eggs
  • 8 ounces of ramps, approximately 1 large handful – clean well, remove roots, thinly slice bulbs and rough chop leaves – divide bulbs and leaves into separate bowls
  • 6 ounces spinach, about 6 packed cups
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Salt
  1. Turn on oven broiler to pre-heat.
  2. Beat eggs in a large bowl and add 2 large pinches of salt, set aside.
  3. Heat oil in a non-stick oven-safe pan, add sliced ramp bulbs and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes.
  4. Stir in ramp leaves and thyme, and cook until leaves are just wilted, about 1 minute.
  5. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Pour eggs into skillet and cook, stirring and scraping pan all over until loose curds form throughout, about 3 minutes. Stop stirring before they permanently separate into scrambled eggs. Let cook until eggs on bottom are set, about 2 minutes.
  7. Place frittata under broiler and cook just until eggs on top are set. Shake pan to loosen frittata, using spatula to separate the edges as necessary. Turn frittata out onto a plate or serve directly from skillet. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 4-6
Adapted from

CSA Week: Swiss Chard Salad

This Swiss Chard Salad is a favorite and made very often around The Farm. It will surely change the way you feel about Swiss Chard and introduce more of those gorgeous bright greens into your diet.


  • 1 bunch swiss chard
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 ½ cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 lemon
  • ¾ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Crushed red pepper flakes, optional


  1. Wash and dry the chard and remove the stems from the leaves. Cut into thin ribbons. Place in a large salad bowl.
  2. Warm ¼ cup oil in a skillet, add breadcrumbs stirring frequently until crisp. Stir in garlic, salt, and pepper flakes. Toast for a minute. Remove from heat.
  3. Zest lemon into the bowl of chard. Juice lemon in a separate bowl. Add salt and ¼ cup oil.
  4. Add the parmesan cheese, dressing, and breadcrumbs to the chard. Enjoy!

Serves 2
Recipe adapted from

CSA Week: Roasted Acorn Squash Apple Soup

We love this Roasted Acorn Squash Apple Soup for the depth of flavor and unique combination of squash and apple. We know you’ll love warming up with this delicious soup!


  • 1 large or 2 small acorn squash
  • 1 sweet or yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 small carrots, finely chopped (about ½ cup)
  • 3 small celery ribs, finely chopped (about ½ cup)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 granny smith apples, cored and diced
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger, or 2 inches fresh ginger minced
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil


  1. Preheat the oven to 400*F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. You can also use a shallow baking dish.
  2. Slice the top stem off the acorn squash and cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds. Rub outer edges of flesh with 1 tablespoon oil and place each half facing down on the baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes or until tender. Turn off oven and set aside to cool.
  3. Warn the last 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pot on medium heat. Add onion, celery, and carrot, and cook for 5 minutes. Next add garlic, ginger, apples, and spices. Cook 5-10 minutes until apples are slightly tender.
  4. Once squash is cool enough to handle, use spoon to scoop the cooked flesh into the pot, discard the skin. Pour in broth and bring to a low boil and cook for 5-7 minutes until apples are soft.
  5. Add the contents of the pot to a blender along with the coconut milk and blend until smooth. You may need to do this in batches. You can also use an immersion blender to blend in the pot.
  6. Add salt, pepper, and additional spices to taste. Serve warm.

Serves 4
Recipe adapted from 

Cook With The Farm!

We are pleased to offer monthly cooking classes through 2023 that will tickle your taste buds and have you practicing new techniques to add to your healthy cooking toolkit. Class topics will be released quarterly and are taught in-person at our Food Hub. Sign up through our class registration portal, links below. For questions, please email

All classes run from 6:00-7:30pm at The Food Hub, 5557 McAuley Drive, Ypsilanti, MI 48197

January: The Best Lentil Soup Ever! 
Wednesday, January 18th 
Tired of rich holiday food? Let’s recover by preparing this nutritious and warming lentil soup.

February: DIY Nutrition Bars     
Tuesday, February 21st 
Save money and get customized, delicious bars that are sure to please. (And yes, there will be chocolate.)

March: Showdown: Kale vs. Collards     Register Here
Tuesday, March 14th 
No matter which team you’re on, everyone’s a winner with fresh recipe approaches that showcase these beneficial greens!

Funding Opportunity from St Joe’s Ann Arbor and Livingston

St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor and St. Joseph Mercy Livingston are pleased to announce the availability of funds for the Investing in Our Communities grant program. The goal of this program is to provide funding for sustainable projects that promotes optimal health for poor and vulnerable populations in the following zip codes: 48197, 48198, 48139, 48137, and 48430.


Click here for the application link. All grant applications are due by February 28, 2022.

Read the full request for proposals here:St. Joe’s Request For Proposal Final

Instructions for accessing the application portal: Community Investing FY22 Application Process – Access Instructions

We’re hiring!

The Farm at Trinity Health Ann Arbor is currently hiring 1 full time position!! We are thrilled to be growing our team to be able to further our mission to grow a healthy community.  

Position description:

Community Health Worker (Link) A Community Health Worker is a frontline public health worker who is a trusted member of and/or has a remarkable understanding of the community served. This trusting relationship with the community enables the CHW to serve as a liaison/link/intermediary between health system and the community to facilitate access to services and improve the quality and cultural competence of service delivery. The CHW will work, primarily, with people experiencing food insecurity and other social needs. We are excited to have someone on staff who is dedicated to serving our community members and helping them find resources and skills to improve their lives.



Harvesting Carrots in the Fall!

Digging carrots is so satisfying! We’ve started harvesting our field carrots – this is a little video from last year’s fall harvest.

Carrots are high in beta carotene, vitamin A, vitamin K, and vitamin B6! These tasty roots are a favorite of mine for cooking and eating fresh.

If you’re interested in volunteering – digging up carrots is a blast!

Please email:

Giving Thanks

Hello Friends,

I have a question for you: what does Thanksgiving mean to you?

This holiday has always been my favorite because it means lots of food, family, and an intentional pause in our busy lives to give thanks for the good and, even sometimes, the bad.

Thanksgiving evokes memories of being in the kitchen with my female relatives, learning how to make the gravy without lumps. It brings back that teenage longing to sit at the grown-up’s table. It makes me think of all of the mashed potatoes, stuffing, and those soft dinner rolls. I especially miss my maternal grandmother during the holidays. She had a soft voice, but she was the family director. We sang songs, played games, and generally went where she told us. She was the gravy master. I was just the muscle to whisk it seemingly forever.

The other thing this holiday brings up is the story I was taught as a child: Pilgrims and Indians making friends. My ancestors signed the Mayflower compact. In the past, this was a point of pride! Thinking about how my relatives shaped this nation into what it is today.

It was not until recently that I learned that the story of the original Thanksgiving was largely a myth. In fact, the holiday of Thanksgiving was created during the Civil War as a way to bring a divided nation together (sound familiar?). It’s not just a myth, it’s an active cover for the atrocities that were suffered upon the indigenous people of the area, the Wampanoag. The pilgrims were able to establish a foothold on Cape Cod because a plague of European origin had just recently gone through the population of the area, killing an estimated 70-90% of the people living there. Yes, the Wampanoag helped the pilgrims survive by showing them how to plant crops. But also, the pilgrims raided graves and massacred entire villages.

I’m glad I know this history. I need to know that my ancestors stole this land and that their survival was based on the knowledge of the Wampanoag and the many other indigenous peoples who had cultivated this land for thousands of years.

I’m also thankful for the indigenous leaders who are speaking out and giving us hope. I highly recommend that you read this article by Sam Sherman, aka The Sioux Chef. His words inspired my message to you today. And I think he finishes his story perfectly:

“No matter where you are in North America, you are on indigenous land. And so on this holiday, and any day really, I urge people to explore a deeper connection to what are called “American” foods by understanding true Native-American histories, and begin using what grows naturally around us, and to support Native-American growers. There is no need to make Thanksgiving about a false past. It is so much better when it celebrates the beauty of the present.”

Let’s start celebrating indigenous foods: Did you know that a huge number of the foods we eat are indigenous in origin? Maple syrup, squash, pumpkins, beans, corn, wild rice, tomatoes, potatoes, and turkey!

Here’s a recipe from the Sioux Chef. This article gives lots more indigenous recipes.

Maple-Brined Smoked Turkey

Recipe courtesy of The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen by Sean Sherman with Beth Dooley

Serves 10 to 12

  • 10-pound turkey with giblets removed
  • 4 quarts water
  • 1 cup coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons whole juniper berries
  • 1 large sprig sage
  • 4 to 6 cups wood chips (hickory, apple, or hazelnut)
  • Sunflower oil for rubbing the turkey

1. Place the turkey in a large container (a food-safe bucket or big pot). In a saucepan, heat about 1 quart of the water with the salt until it dissolves. Cool. Then add the salt water, the remaining water, maple syrup, juniper berries and sage to the turkey. Make sure the turkey is fully submerged. Cover (weigh the turkey down, if necessary) and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours. Soak the wood chips in cold water for at least 4 hours or overnight. Remove the turkey and pat dry.

2. Prepare a charcoal grill or smoker for indirect heat, at about 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Sprinkle in enough of the soaked wood chips to cover the coals and allow them to char.

3. Place the turkey in a roasting pan fitted with a rack. Brush the turkey with the sunflower oil. Place the turkey in the grill or smoker and cook until the internal temperature of the thigh registers 165°F, about 3½ to 4½ hours. Remove and allow to rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.