Feed the Fields
From L: Karla (Vecinos Volunteer), Amy Schmidt (Vecinos Exec Dir), Pete McQuiston (Swain Hospital DFNS)
Contributed by Special Correspondent, George Levins
In rural North Carolina, Pete McQuiston and his Morrison Health- care team live those words— own those words. And, years ahead of 2020, the story they tell is anything but a vision. There, in Bryson City, Swain Community Hospital is appropriately named, with “community” centered in its name. The word is also, apparently, central to the hospital’s mission. organization. Then, in August of last year, the hospital was purchased by for-profit Duke Life Point . Locally, the transition brought concern relating to the new owners’ intentions. Duke was wise to the skepticism and sensitive to the challenge—they recognized that to be fully integrated into the community they would have to prove themselves good neighbors. McQuiston knew exactly how to take on the task. A phone call to long-time friend Amy Schmidt would start the ball rolling. Schmidt is the Executive Director for an organization called Vecinos , a group whose mission is to Since 1929, Swain Community Hospital was a not-for-profit
Compass Group North Ameri- ca’s Envision 2020 platform views food service as a “holistic experience.” We are moving rapidly to “a culture that promotes community and collaboration that is powered by great tasting food that happens to be healthy.” Says Morrison Healthcare CEO Tim Pierce , “We believe in the Power of Food and want our patients and customers in our cafés to be able to make responsible food choices, experience a connection with food, take ownership of their well-being, and promote productivity and collaboration. The company has established foundational pillars that drive that vision—food, community, ownership, and storytelling.”
“improve the lives of farmworkers and their families by offering mobile medical and education services, advocacy, and connections to community resources.” The fact that the literal translation of Vecinos is “neighbor” seemed too good to be coincidental, and Pete wasn’t about to miss the aligned potential. Vecinos quickly defined the need, educating their new neighbors that living closely among them were 150,000+ desperately poor, seasonal farm workers living in crowded camps, a population that Schmidt describes as “invisible.” The hospital’s leaders, however, found the group quite noticeable, in traffic through its ER. Few had health insurance. Many were malnourished. Poor, hungry, and sick … These were the hospital’s neighbors. For Pete, it was sadly ironic that the same people who labored to provide the fresh, local, and sustain- able food that was integrated into Morrison Healthcare menus were themselves hungry.
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