SALT LAKE CITY — Grocery shopping can be a chore for many people, but especially for someone who is sick. Local farmers are teaming up with Intermountain Healthcare to get fresh, organic produce in the hands of those who need it most.
Kathleya Gracida has always loved to eat healthily, but it became more challenging when she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in December of 2018. She’s battled rounds of high-dose chemo this year.
She said the news was shocking. “I live a very, very healthy life. The last 15 years I’ve lost 50 pounds … I have a well-balanced diet,” Gracida explained. “It was hard, very, very tough to receive the news and digest the news. I cannot believe it.”
The treatments have taken a toll on her well-being, leaving her in excruciating pain, feeling nauseous, and with little energy she said.
Gracida’s experienced lots of changes this year. "The whole time she shaved my head I just closed my eyes and cried,” she said.
On the day KSL visited her, she was going in for 13 hours of breast reconstruction surgery. "I'm really scared," she admitted. “However, I'm excited. I want it to be done.”
Between treatments, follow-ups and surgeries, the hospital has become Gracida’s second home. When she stumbled upon a farmer's market in the cancer center lobby at Intermountain Medical Center, she was thrilled.
“Oh my gosh! All these fresh vegetables and fruits," she exclaimed. “I’m so, so excited because I eat a lot of vegetables. I eat a lot of fruits!”
Intermountain Healthcare partners with Green Urban Lunch Box to share organic produce with patients at no cost.
Shawn Peterson, founder and executive director of the organization, described his intent behind the partnership. He said fresh produce is an important part of someone’s recovery and he hopes to make it easier for cancer patients to access it.
"You've got to go to work, you've got to come to cancer treatment, you got to maybe take care of your kids. You've got all these things you have to, do and the last thing you have a chance to do is go out and buy organic grown produce," he said.
Julie Opp, a registered dietician at Intermountain Medical Center, said healthy nutrition is critical to cancer recovery.
“Their immune system is challenged or compromised, and so eating those fruits and vegetables with the phytochemicals, and the vitamins and minerals, is going to strengthen their immune system,” Opp said.
She recommends eating the rainbow. "It's the variety that really is key because you want to maximize the nutritional benefit to help that healing process," Opp said.
Opp also encourages people to avoid eating saturated fats, red meats with nitrates, and fried foods. She said a nutritious diet can decrease side effects, help a patient maintain strength and a healthy body weight.
Gracida is anxious to do everything she can do improve her condition. "The doctor wants me to eat as healthy as I can be," Gracida said. “So it will be a good thing to have, you know, fresh stuff rather than just going to the grocery store.”
Peterson said he enjoys his time engaging with humble patients who walk by the market on their way to a doctor's appointment. "I don't think I find a more grateful audience than the patients here at these cancer centers," Peterson said.
Gracida is counted among the grateful. "I'm so glad to be a recipient of the goodness and the greatness of many people," she said.
And it won’t take long for her to indulge in her share of fresh fruits and vegetables. “He introduced me to the yellow plums, which I've never had,” she said. "I may eat it on my way home because it looks really, really delicious!"
The mobile hospital farmer's market is available now through October at Intermountain Medical Center, Utah Valley Hospital, LDS Hospital, and the McKay-Dee Hospital cancer center. A dietician will also be there to answer nutrition questions and to share plant-based recipes.
Locations & Dates:
Intermountain Medical Center
Bldg. #3 Lobby, 5121 South Cottonwood St., Murray
Thursdays: July 25; Aug. 1, 8, 15, 22, 29; Sept. 5, 12, 19, 26; Oct. 3
Utah Valley Hospital Cancer Center
Sorenson Tower 1st Floor (Radiation Oncology), 395 W. Bulldog Blvd., Provo
Mondays: July 22; Aug. 5, 19, 16, 30; Oct. 14
7th Floor West 7 Conference Room, 8th Ave. C Street, Salt Lake City
Fridays: July 26; Aug. 2, 9, 16, 23, 30; Sept. 6, 13, 20, 27; Oct. 4, 11
McKay-Dee Hospital cancer center
Ste. 1670, 4403 Harrison Blvd., Ogden
Wednesdays: July 31; Aug. 7, 14, 21, 28; Sept. 4, 11, 18, 25; Oct. 2, 9, 16