Before the opening of Memorial Hermann Northeast Hospital’s community garden in June 2022, officials said the space where it now resides was a bit of a nuisance.

Nikki Roux, vice president and chief operating officer of MHNH, said the garden used to be a small roadway before adjacent structures were completed, enclosing the space.

“It was not positively thought about because there was a lot of smoking that went on out there, and it was a main thoroughfare,” she said.

Now, Roux said the community garden not only serves as a tranquil space for hospital staff and patients to enjoy, but as a source of fresh produce for the hospital’s local food bank.

A closer look

According to Roux, the idea to build the garden stemmed from a community health needs assessment that indicated food insecurity as one of the most pressing needs in the area.

“Right across the street, we have a Memorial Hermann Community Resource Center that has a food bank, and fresh produce is the most expensive thing,” she said. “Oftentimes, [food banks] get produce that may be a day old ... and it's hard to keep.”

Within a year of opening, Roux said the garden has generated nearly 500 pounds of produce that has since been donated to the food bank.

Why it matters

In addition to assisting the food bank, Roux said the garden has provided a peaceful getaway for patients and their visitors to help alleviate the stress that can come along with a hospital visit.

Additionally, she said the garden has helped to create a culture of collaboration among hospital staff members ranging from surgeons to custodial employees that didn’t exist prior to its creation.

“It helps to remind us that the things that bring us together that we have in common are so much greater than the things that separate us in that kind of way,” Roux said.