Monmouth Medical Center breaks ground on community garden to benefit behavioral health patients

Monmouth Medical Center (MMC) broke ground this fall on a community garden that will enable outpatient behavioral health clients to learn urban farming techniques and put those techniques to practice with their own growing bed.

Created in partnership with Fulfill, the Food Bank for Monmouth & Ocean County, and Lowe’s home improvement stores in Eatontown, Holmdel and Howell, the garden will benefit patients at Pollak Outpatient Behavioral Health in countless ways, says Chelsea Hoagland, assistant director for the hospital’s Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) grant.

Lowe’s is funding the labor and materials for the garden project through its Lowe’s Hometowns program, and the hospital will utilize grant funding to build a greenhouse, according to Hoagland. When complete, the community garden will be equipped with multiple raised garden beds, a heated greenhouse, a cold frame for protection against adverse weather, and a compost system. These resources all work together and help sustain the garden year-round.

“The garden will benefit our patient community at Pollak in countless ways — one is having our patients in our partial hospitalization program learn how to grow their own food through Fulfill’s ‘Seed to Supper Program.’ Another is having Fulfill teach cooking classes that stress the importance of nutritious foods and making healthy choices to patients using vegetables grown right in our own backyard,” Hoagland said. “We are hoping to measure the success of this program by observing an increase in healthy eating habits, connectivity with nature and self, and improved overall wellness in our patients. We are beyond thrilled about our collaboration with Fulfill and Lowe’s.”

Fulfill’s Seed-To-Supper Garden Education Program is dedicated to providing community members with the tools to grow their own healthy foods that can be used to provide healthy, budget-friendly meals.

“The community garden project was inspired by Fulfill and was the dream of its Garden Education Coordinator Jess Sinkhorn, who was looking to build a community garden on a hospital property,” Hoagland said. “Initially, we were going to utilize funding from our CCBHC grant to pay for the garden; however, Lowe’s had reached out to Fulfill in hopes of sponsoring a community project and chose our site to receive a donation from the Lowe’s Hometowns program”

In 2021, MMC received a two-year grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to expand its behavioral health services and increase access to care among underserved populations throughout Monmouth County. The grant was used to establish MMC’s Pollak Outpatient Behavioral Health Services as a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic at MMC’s campus in Long Branch.

Pollak Outpatient Behavioral Health at MMC, a part of RWJBarnabas Health Behavioral Health services, has a wide array of integrated mental health services that are evidence-based and person-centered. Its adult Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) uses a multidisciplinary approach to help clients meet their self-determined goals in a manner that promotes personal growth, successful community involvement, stabilization and wellness.