A new community garden in northeast Houston will produce about 10,000 pounds of vegetables every year as part of an effort to fight food insecurity in the region, according to a local nonprofit.

The recently opened Shotwell Garden could feed up to 400 families in underserved communities, according to Sandra Wicoff, CEO of the nonprofit Target Hunger.

Community gardens across Houston like Shotwell help provide access to healthy produce, and give locals a better understanding of how easy it is to grow in small spaces, Wicoff said.

“The vision for the new garden is twofold, and both are equally important,” Wicoff said. “First is growing fresh produce to get into the hands of food insecure families in northeast Houston… the second is creating a location to teach the community important skills.”

The project comes at a time when food insecurity has been exacerbated by the pandemic, and made worse due to the February winter storm.

The pandemic increased the number of people seeking food assistance by 50%, according to Wicoff.

“People lost their jobs very suddenly and didn’t have the savings or the resources to really take care of things,” Wicoff said.

Shotwell Garden is located at Target Hunger’s main warehouse, 1260 Shotwell St. The garden consists of 2,400 plastic crates, which are elevated above ground level to eliminate the potential risk of gardening on contaminated land.

The above-ground container garden was funded with a $94,000 sustainability grant from Green Mountain Energy Sun Club, an investment group that funds nonprofit, environmentally sustainable projects. The donation covers installation charges, the crate system, wooden racks, a greenhouse and other utilities.

The main goal for Target Hunger is to “alleviate hunger by providing supplemental, nutritious food to people who might otherwise not be able to feed themselves and their families”, according to the organization’s website. The group says it administered more than 2 million meals to about 31,000 people in 2020.

In 2017, Houston and Harris County reported that 16.3% of the local population was food insecure, including more than 23% of kids. One million people are still at risk of having chronic conditions such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes, according to the city.

Stacy Mehlhoff, executive director at Sun Club, said the Shotwell Garden will hopefully help alleviate that.

“Nearby access to grocery markets and fresh foods is a challenge in our community,” Mehlhoff said. “Target Hunger will be able to provide fresh produce for our neighbors in the Northeast Houston community who are experiencing food insecurity.”