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Smile Farms ribbon cutting

Food insecurity on Long Island is on the rise and in an effort to address the critical issue, the teams from Catholic Health and Smile Farms, Inc. expanded their existing partnership, with monetary support from the Town of Hempstead, by introducing a larger second cooperative food garden. Last week, Catholic Health, Smile Farms, and the Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin unveiled the garden at Catholic Health Mercy Hospital in Rockville Centre. Created to support the mental health community while combating food insecurity on Long Island, the garden will also provide Catholic Health behavioral health patients with employment opportunities and a way to give back to their community.
The garden will be tended by patients in Mercy’s Behavioral Health Personalized Recovery Oriented Services (PROS) Program and will receive job training and payment, provided by Smile Farms funding. The produce will be shared with food-insecure individuals at Mercy Hospital’s Family Care Center, an outpatient clinic for women and children.
“While food insecurity continues to grow here on Long Island, we are also aware that mental health issues continue to be on the rise as well. This garden, like our first, will offer vital building blocks that support mental health and spiritual well-being, and address hunger on Long Island. I couldn’t be more proud to be part of this program and looking forward to seeing it grow,” said Mercy Hospital President Joseph Manopella.
The first Catholic Heath/Smile Farms garden opened in 2023 at Catholic Health’s Mercy Hospital Outpatient Behavioral Health Clinic in Garden City. 
Smile Farms provides meaningful work opportunities for people with disabilities to grow, sell, and donate plants, produce, and products in the community.
“Our collaboration with Catholic Health is special and unique as it affords our Smile Farmers the opportunity to give to others while concurrently giving to themselves. The mental health benefits of gardening are well documented: including decreased anxiety, stress, and depression and increased creativity, productivity, attention, memory, and self-esteem. We are grateful to Catholic Health and Supervisor Clavin for helping us bring our holistic vision and impact to life at a second site,” said Smile Farms Managing Director Diana Martin.
Catholic Health’s multifaceted food insecurity initiative currently offers emergency food “to-go” bags distributed in Catholic Health’s six emergency departments and throughout Long Island. Individuals who receive the bags are also provided with direct referrals to community-based organizations to identify resources, such as the Federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program (SNAP) for regular access to healthy foods. 
“The Town of Hempstead was proud to contribute funds toward the construction and development of this new Smile Farm at Catholic Health Mercy Hospital, but it is the hard-working men and women of the PROS Program who will truly make this garden grow and thrive for years to come,” added Supervisor Don Clavin. “I truly cannot think of a better way to benefit people with special needs and mental health challenges, while also providing healthy and nutritious food for new mothers and their children. We are confident that other civic organizations and local businesses across Long Island will follow the example of Mercy Hospital and create their own Smile Farms to benefit their communities.”
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