Doctor’s green-fingered treatment
A doctor has taken on chronic diseases — at the root.
Stanley James, of Premier Health and Wellness Centre, is dosing his neediest patients with free vegetables grown in a garden at his surgery.
Dr James said: “I am excited. It means I can give someone food for free who could not afford it for themselves.”
He explained good nutrition was a significant factor in the avoidance of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
Dr James said: “If you don't get quality food, then you will end up eating food that is processed, and is not really healthy.
“When we look at those who are sick in Bermuda, most of that population doesn't have the finances to get food that is fresh and nutrient-dense.”
He added the scheme had already been welcomed by patients and that his staff would call seniors who used the practice to offer the vegetables to them.
Dr James said: “They have been very grateful. Our core philosophy is not prescriptions and pills and, hopefully, we can give people lifestyle practices that can maintain or reverse diseases.”
The GP said he came up with the idea as he walked past his surgery and its grounds. Dr James explained: “I noticed that every month I was paying for someone to keep it.
“Then I was inspired to say ‘why don't I turn this into a garden to give food to people, as opposed to growing grass which is taking money from me?'”
Dr James said: “The patients said it is the thought that counts and the knowledge that you are thinking about them, and to give it to them for free feels really good. Any senior that comes in who is a member of this practice gets this food for free.”
He hired JaVaughn Dill, of Dill Pickle Farming, a few months ago to do the groundwork and harvesting of a garden on a strip of land next to the practice. He and Mr Dill harvested their first crop yesterday.
Mr Dill said: “Creating a garden in the city wasn't hard. I just had to put a little extra soil in. We had a really good harvest.”
He planted tomatoes, kale, mustard greens, beets, Bermuda onions, carrots and herbs.
Dr James's friend, David Steed, the pastor of the Hamilton Seventh-day Adventist Church near the practice, watched the harvest and said he was considering starting a similar scheme.
Mr Steed added a lot of his older parishioners knew they should eat better, but could not afford it.
He said: “I have visited homes of seniors, you walk in there and the refrigerator and cupboards are empty. There's a bottle of water and some old jam in the fridge.
“There are seniors in our rich country that are starving at home. Knowing they can come here and get this blessing is tremendous.
“It is a way of making sure they are eating.”
Dr James promised if Mr Steed launched a garden scheme, he would pay for it because he was committed to helping people.
He added his mother, Rose, had encouraged him to become a doctor, despite the fact she was a single parent with four other children.
Dr James said: “I have friends on the other side who grew up with me on Fenton's Drive in Pembroke like I did and went to Central School, but somewhere along the way they fell among thieves that stole their vitality, dreams, purpose and now they wander around without a job.
“They can't really negotiate the healthcare system. They are just pushed to the margins.
“For me to talk about vegetables when you are just trying to get your head together is rough. I have to make complex things simple.”