Returning to simple acts of kindness has been a salve for many people during the pandemic. If you’ve ever had a neighbor who graciously gave you a little plastic bag full of herbs from their garden, you’re familiar with the concept. The Compass One Healthcare team at Arkansas Children’s Hospital Northwest in Springdale, Ark., has been tending a garden all summer while tending to the brightening of customers’ day with the harvest.
The garden, right outside the café, is sprouting strawberries, tomatoes, green peas, cucumbers, bell peppers, arugula, many herbs and the beginnings of blueberry bushes (which take their time getting established).
“We love our little garden,” says Megan Herrmann, director of food and nutrition services. “We don’t use the garden herbs for a lot of café items—we use them more to give away for staff to use at home. They love getting a freebie on Fridays! Our chef also uses our garden items for catering at the hospital.”
The garden has been a great way to connect the foodservice staff with employees, even virtually with videos to show the harvest as it happens. The garden at Arkansas Children’s Hospital is right outside the café entrance. For those hospital employees and visitors passing through, the hospital garden provides a bit of education on the side.
Last week, arugula from the garden did make it into the café’s menu, at a rotating concept called Toasty, which offers fancy seasonal toasts.
As far as the pandemic goes, “we’re doing really well all things considered,” Herrmann says. “We’ve noticed more of an appreciation for the small things again. Small gestures of kindness are honored as that and not as service expectations right now. We’ve seen a lot of good come from this pandemic…more awareness of food supply chains has been huge, I think.”
In addition to the herb freebies, “another super positive thing we were able to contribute is our mini market,” Herrmann says. “Thanks to Compass Group’s purchasing reach, I’m able to get Clorox wipes and Purell. Hospital staff can’t always find these items locally, so they’ve been able to purchase them in our café market.”
Being a helpful force in the lives of hospital employees has been meaningful to Herrmann during these trying times.
“I had an employee tell me her family is allergic to bleach, so she was so thankful we were selling Clorox hydrogen peroxide wipes. She purchased two cases from me, along with a lot of Purell, and drove them to her family in southern Arkansas because they can’t find them anywhere!” Herrmann recalls. “I felt so great that day.”
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