As the Senior Leader of Design and Construction for one of B.C.’s largest health care investments, Florrie Levine is no stranger to building things from the ground up.
Florrie is part of the Burnaby Hospital Redevelopment Project (BHRP) team, which will see two new patient towers , a new cancer center, and expansion and renovations to existing buildings, providing residents in the community with improved access to quality care. With over 40 staff, the redevelopment team recently opened a new office in a building steps away from the Burnaby Hospital campus. The space includes a large outdoor patio, where Florrie saw an opportunity to start a garden. And she knew where she could find support for her vision.
Florrie has been a Green+Leader for over five years. As part of a network of health-care staff engaged in advancing sustainability practices within the health system, Florrie knew about the sustainability grants available from the Fraser Health Innovation team and the Energy and Environmental Sustainability (EES) team. In 2022, she successfully applied for one of the three $1,000 grants to bring the food garden to life.
Florrie struck up a garden working group and their collaboration was one of the project’s big successes.
Finding colleagues with similar interests is fun and makes the work all the more rewarding,” says Florrie. It’s been like “garden therapy.”
The team had fun planting blueberries, cucumbers, spinach, lettuce, arugula, kale, green onions, peas, tomatoes, and a variety of herbs: rosemary, chives, and oregano.
With the terrace’s southeast exposure, their garden thrived. Its first season yielded food for harvest as well as lots of interest from other team members, all witnessing the garden change with the seasons.
Research shows that gardens can improve staff health by reducing stress, boosting morale, and even increasing productivity. “Establishing a garden has been welcomed and celebrated by the project team, fostering connection and design,” says Noor Esmail, Florrie’s manager and Executive Director.
As the working group prepares the garden for a cold winter, they are thinking about ways to grow and evolve the project in 2023 and beyond. Florrie may collaborate with Elaine Chu, a fellow 2022 Fraser Health Sustainability Innovation Grant recipient, who launched a food-focused health fair at the Royal Columbian Hospital. And depending on next year’s harvest, sharing with the Burnaby Hospital food services team may be considered.
The garden has not only nourished the team with food but with its beauty.
“It’s always worthwhile to create a food garden,” says Florrie. The butterflies, the bees, and the Burnaby Hospital Redevelopment team all benefit.