Nash Health Care Chaplain Sows Seeds For Healthy Living

The latest installment in our Real Medicine video series features the Rev. Richard Joyner, head of hospital chaplaincy at Nash Health Care, who started a community garden in a small rural town where he teaches kids to grow vegetables.

The Rev. Richard Joyner, at right, started the Conetoe Family Life Center, which now feeds an entire community with healthy, organic vegetables and produce.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Eleven years ago, the Rev. Richard Joyner, head of hospital chaplaincy at Nash Health Care in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, took over the pastor role at Conetoe Chapel in Conetoe, North Carolina. Within the first year, he had performed so many funerals where the cause of death was related to poor nutrition and poor health care that he knew he had to do something. So he announced one Sunday they were going to have a camp for kids to come and learn how to grow vegetables. Conetoe (pronounced "Kuh-Nee-Ta"), a tiny rural town, does not have a great deal of resources, but land for gardening they do have. Before he could actually make a plan, kids were showing up for camp and thus was born the Conetoe Family Life Center that now feeds an entire community with healthy, organic vegetables and produce.

Rev. Joyner, a humble, unassuming man who grew up as a sharecropper's son, hated farming most of his life. But as relationships in the community have grown around gardening and learning healthy dietary practices, he's grown to love it. For him, healthy relationships are the key to producing resources. "What we can't do with money, we can do with relationships."

Healthy food has translated directly into healthy living, as evidenced by a severe drop in the number of emergency department visits from the Conetoe community. Larry Chewning, President and CEO of Nash Health Care, comments, "What Richard is doing in Conetoe reflects what we hope our our health system is all about. Not just providing great care, but also looking at direct, focused ways we can improve population health."

In 2014, Joyner was recognized nationally with a Purpose Prize. For information about the Purpose Prize, check out: http://encore.org/purpose-prize/richard-joyner/, but first check out this month's Real Medicine video from Nash County!

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