In 2016, Morning Pointe Senior Living launched the “Farm to Table” program, designed to regularly connect residents with more fresh produce from local farms. Four years later, the Chattanooga-based senior healthcare services company celebrates how the program has taken root and flourished at more than 30 resident communities across the Southeast.

Morning Pointe partners with four family-owned farms in Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, and Alabama to source produce for use in its senior living campuses. Each week, food service directors select what seasonal produce will be delivered, which is then incorporated into resident meals throughout the week. In addition, many Morning Pointe communities maintain a communal garden and residents are encouraged to take part in growing their fruit, vegetables, and herbs.

Morning Pointe corporate director of food service Michael Woods has spearheaded the “Farm to Table” campaign since its inception, and he says “Farm to Table” provides a crucial service to residents. “There are health benefits as well as emotional ones,” says Woods of the program. “Farm-fresh produce simply tastes better and has more nutritional value. Residents connect to the initiative—they get it. They come from a generation where farming and gardening were commonplace. Many of our residents grew up on farms or had their own gardens. They understand the satisfaction that comes from being able to enjoy something you grew yourself. Furthermore, we’re keeping our dollars local. We’re supporting the farmers in the communities in which we operate and strengthening the local economy.”

Morning Pointe of Hixson, Tennessee food service director Shane Stephens agrees. He says the culture surrounding fresh food has allowed him to develop a closer connection with his residents, dietary team, and vendors. “I really enjoy being able to work with local farmers. We have a saying in the culinary world, ‘Good food comes from good ingredients.’ And good ingredients come from people who are passionate about what they are growing,” he says. “Because we work with seasonal produce that changes from week to week, we’re able to improvise a little bit with our meals. The dietary team is able to listen to residents and respond to resident requests, and we’re all able to bond over a love of good food.”

Woods adds that, thanks to executive and community support for the program, “Farm to Table” has expanded greatly in the past four years. “We’ve come a long way. The program has grown each and every year, building on momentum from the previous year. Now, ‘Farm to Table’ is an expected part of Morning Pointe programming. I think it’s a huge advantage for us, for our residents, and for our vendors. Our continued focus on fresh food sets us apart.”

Independent Healthcare Properties, LLC, a Chattanooga, Tenn.-based senior healthcare services company, is the developer, owner, and manager of 35 Morning Pointe assisted living and The Lantern at Morning Pointe Alzheimer’s Center of Excellence communities in five southeastern states. IHP was founded in 1996 by Tennessee healthcare entrepreneurs Greg A. Vital and Franklin Farrow. For more information, please visit www.morningpointe.com.