An hour and a half north of Houston, on approximately 10,200 acres in the Big Thicket of Deep East Texas is the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, the oldest reservation in the state. The Tribe, a fully functioning sovereign government, provides a wide range of health and human services for its 1,425 members, about half of whom live on the reservation. Directly due to the funding of GHWIC, the reservation has been able to improve their tribal food programs and encourage healthy activities.
In between two small towns that are 20 miles away on either side, the community is a food desert. Some community members do not have vehicles, causing transportation to be a large barrier to healthy foods.
To address this need, the GHWIC team at the Alabama-Coushatta Reservation had a plan to bring fresh produce to the tables of their community members. It started out with three 4×6 foot garden beds outside of the clinic, but soon spread to eight beds. After creating a partnership with the local university, the team was soon able to switch to conventional gardening – drastically increasing the output of locally grown fresh healthy foods. The program was very well received, it provided fresh foods to community members, and community members received the program so well, the garden became the place of care for some as they preferred to sit in the comfortable garden chairs during clinical visits.
The Alabama-Coushatta Reservation wanted to do more. The team began producing raised 5×5 foot garden beds for the use of elders and those with mobility issues. 50 Gardens were made in the first year and those that received them were provided with soil, seeds, and a local contact who delivers them compost to keep the soil rich. They will soon offer classes on how to preserve the fresh produce.
This intervention has sparked a great amount of discussion on healthy foods and ignited a passion for gardening in some community members. Community members reached out to the Tribe requesting more room for growing. The GHWIC team was able to coordinate with local resources to have land tilled outside of community member’s homes creating large personal gardens, increasing the healthy foods to Tribal tables.