Pictured Above: Hartford Hospital’s hydroponic rooftop gardens grow several tons of fresh produce annually, bolstering our Food4Health Clinic and providing our patients and colleagues with equitable access to locally grown, nutritious foods. The vision for Food4Health is to become a leader for nutrition security for the people of Hartford, connected directly to clinical relationships with patients. Food is tailored specifically to patient needs and diagnosis, with biometric impacts tracked.

In both business and life, Greg Toczydlowski often cites the story of the Phantom Farmer—an unnamed farmer who notices a neighboring family in great need and places his crop on their front porch before leaving without a note, knock on the door, or any form of fanfare.

“The Phantom Farmer just does it because it’s the righteous thing to do,” says Greg, an executive with Travelers and Vice chair of Hartford HealthCare’s Board of Directors. “We hope that story’s lesson and that type of kindness can inspire people to help others within our community.”

Greg and his wife Mary-Jo are farmers themselves. They own and operate a farm with crops, chickens, pigs, goats, and a herd of alpacas—one of which actually lived in their house for a period of time, while it healed. It was their love for both agriculture and Hartford Hospital that attracted them to the hospital’s budding Food4Health program and led to their generous gift in support of the initiative.

Pictured Above: Greg and Mary-Jo Toczydlowski care for several types of animals on their farm, including nearly 15 alpacas, which provide fiber their family uses to knit socks, hats, gloves, and sweaters that they later donate.

Food4Health is a free service that provides food-insecure patients and caregivers with greater access to nutritious foods and guidance on meal preparation tailored for diet-related illnesses, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Designed to look like your local grocery store, the Food4Health Clinic in the hospital’s Brownstone Building offers fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthy items for patients who receive a prescription from a physician. To keep the Clinic replenished and fresh, the hospital installed two Food4Health hydroponic rooftop gardens that grow several tons of produce every year.

Food4Health has been so successful in assisting food-insecure patients and families that other Hartford HealthCare hospitals are now adopting the program for their regions—and the Toczydlowskis are eager to engage and watch the service grow and thrive throughout the state.

“We loved the concept of teaching nutrition and helping patients to live healthier lives,” says Mary-Jo. “Food4Health not only provides food, but it also teaches patients how to properly prepare their meals in a healthy way. Providing the recipes and the structure is a really big thing, particularly for people who are sick. It makes their lives a little easier.”

“When Jeff Flaks [President & CEO of Hartford HealthCare] and his team shared the program, including the hydroponics, we thought it was so creative and just scratching the surface of what we could do together,” adds Greg. “I think Food4Health exemplifies how strategic Hartford HealthCare has become. The system is finding unique ways to remove barriers to healthcare and stem medical challenges like diabetes.”

Hartford HealthCare now boasts one of the more impressive hospital hydroponic rooftop gardening programs in the country, at a time when food insecurity rates have increased dramatically. According to a 2024 Feeding American report, one in eight Connecticut residents (468,150 residents) are facing hunger and one in six Connecticut children are food insecure (112,600 children).

“Food4Health has been a tremendous success for our hospital and community—and the program exemplifies Hartford HealthCare’s commitment to fostering innovative and effective solutions that address Connecticut’s healthcare needs,” said Lynn B. Rossini, Vice president of Philanthropy, Hartford Hospital.

“Thanks to the generosity of the Toczydlowskis and other valued supporters, we are now working to bring the Food4Health model to other Hartford HealthCare regions, while also strengthening Hartford Hospital’s program with the installation of an on-site greenhouse that will increase our growing window to eleven months out of the year.”

Click here to learn more about Food4Health at Hartford Hospital. If you are interested in helping us address food insecurity in Connecticut, please click here to make a gift to Food4Health.