Group works to combat ‘food deserts’ in Houston with gardening classes

Fighting back against food insecurity in Fifth Ward
Fighting back against food insecurity in Fifth Ward

HOUSTON – More than 500,000 Houstonians are living in “food deserts”-- parts of town where fresh, nutritious food are not immediately accessible.

Houston’s Greater Fifth Ward makes up a significant portion of that figure. Howeverbut one organization is stepping up to help by teaching neighbors how to grow their own food.

Grandmother to 12, Michelle Williams, lives in the Fifth Ward. Her neighborhood grocery store, Louis White Grocery, shut down a few years ago.

“I don’t know what the cause of it was, but they shouldn’t have closed because a lot of people don’t have transportation to go to another store,” Williams said.

Thursday afternoon, Mattie Sterling took a virtual gardening class on Zoom, hosted by the Julia C. Hester House. The class’s goal was to stamp out food insecurity.

“I feel like if you grow enough at home, you can provide for the whole family, and then everybody can eat,” said Sterling.

The Hester House provided participants with fertilizer, soil and vegetable plants. Sterling was given mustard and cauliflower plants. A spokesperson for the Hester House said they’re trying to help neighbors be self-sufficient in areas that don’t have grocery stores.

“The purpose of the class is to walk them through planting seeds and harvesting produce, as well as cooking," the spokesperson said.

Sterling said learning to grow her own vegetables allows her to stay at home, which is key during the pandemic.

“You know, you don’t have to worry about gas or getting somebody to come get you," Sterling said. “You can just walk outdoors, pick it, clean it up and put it on.”

The Hester House plans to have more of these classes. For more information, check out

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