Hospital kicks off Plow to Plate initiative

Known as Plow to Plate and believed to be a first for the health care industry, the hospital has formed a community coalition of physicians, farmers, chefs, restaurateurs, community leaders, land preservationists and state and local government officials.

They will sponsor public education and support the hospital's commitment to transforming its own food service to one that provides wholesome food that is locally and regionally produced, whenever possible.

As a starting point, the hospital has cultivated a partnership with national leader and sustainable food expert John Turenne.

As the former executive chef at Yale University for ARAMARK Corporation, Mr. Turenne led the internationally recognized Yale University Sustainable Food Project under the guidance of acclaimed culinary and organic food icon Chef Alice Waters of the Chez Panisse Restaurant and Foundation when her daughter was a student at Yale.

"John Turenne is a trailblazer who understands the most important issues in providing food in an institutional setting," said Chef Waters.

"He is both nourishing people with real food and helping to transform agriculture in this country," she said.

New Milford Hospital President and CEO Dr. Joseph Frolkis said "Prevention should be central to every community hospital's efforts, and is something that I have been personally and professionally committed to in my work to help people reduce their risk factors for cardiovascular disease."

"The Plow to Plate initiative brings together vital community resources to teach all of us ways to eat more healthfully, and to enjoy using locally raised ingredients to enrich our dinner tables and our lifestyles."

"We have a tremendous opportunity to lead the way in Connecticut's health care industry to underscore the profound positive impact that a wholesome diet has on one's health," Dr. Frolkis added.

New Milford Mayor Pat Murphy, a partner in the coalition, said she thinks the program is "great" because it will "benefit the farmers, the patients who use the services of the hospital, and the employees who work there."

"It is also a great way to promote healthy eating to our residents," she observed.

The hospital's leadership in the grassroots initiative complements its action to provide clinical programs to prevent disease.

Led by Dr. Frolkis, a nationally recognized expert in cardiovascular disease prevention, the hospital offers a multi-disciplinary program to help patients reduce their risk factors for heart disease, diabetes and obesity-related illness.

The Plow to Plate coalition's multi-year public education plan kicked off with a cooking class taught by a farmer, chef and physician earlier this month.

Cooking classes, which will be held at The Silo in the Northville section of New Milford, will focus on the health benefits of minimally processed raw foods Aug. 4 and the harvest of seasonal ingredients Sept. 8.

"Go Fish" a seafood feast at White Peach Restaurant in Gaylordsville will be held July 8 and a "Back to the Barn, on the Farm" family event will be held at The Silo Oct. 7.

The educational series will continue next year with a focus on children and the following year on seniors.

The coalition also plans to host documentary films and speakers on the topics of school food, food allergies and farm preservation as additional awareness and education events.