Bumper crop from prison gardens goes to local food banks

More than six tons of fresh produce grown in prison horticulture programs have been distributed to the needy through food...

More than six tons of fresh produce grown in prison horticulture programs have been distributed to the needy through food banks across the state this fall, Washington Department of Corrections (DOC) officials announced.

The main purpose of the horticulture programs is to provide fresh produce for prison kitchens, saving the Department of Corrections thousands of dollars in annual food costs and providing healthy food for prison populations. The programs also create meaningful work for inmates who plant, cultivate and harvest the produce.

Whenever the horticulture programs produce a surplus, the extra fresh vegetables are donated to various food banks around the state.

“We are pleased that needy people in the community can also benefit when offenders produce bumper crops that are bigger than the prisons can consume,” said DOC Secretary Harold Clarke.

Here is a rundown of institutions that have supplied food banks with prison produce so far this season:

— Gardens at the Pine Lodge Corrections Center for Women in Medical Lake yielded over a ton of salad vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes, peppers and onions. The Medical Lake and Cheney food banks received the produce. Pine Lodge estimates another ton is yet to be harvested.

— The horticulture class at the Monroe Corrections Center’s Special Offender Unit donated lettuce, herbs, cucumbers, squash and tomatoes to the Matthew House. What Matthew House cannot use is donated to the food bank in Monroe. Monroe Corrections Center has donated another 100 pounds of fresh produce and will continue donating surplus until the plants stop producing.

— The Receiving Unit at Washington Corrections Center in Shelton provided an estimated 2,500 pounds of salad vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes, peppers and onions. The produce is donated to the Thurston County Food Bank.

— The horticulture program operated by the Training Center at Washington Corrections Center donated over 9,000 pounds of fresh produce such as squash, lettuce, beans, cucumbers and peas so far. An estimated 1,000 pounds of additional produce will be donated before the end of the growing season. The Shelton Gateway Church (formerly Shelton Commodities) St. Pantry, Matlock Food Bank, Hood Canal Food Bank, Shelton Senior Center shared this bounty.

— The Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor provides vegetable and garden produce stock for planting at Mother Earth Farms. Mother Earth Farms is a not-for-profit organization under the Emergency Food Network. The Emergency Food Network feeds the needy population of Pierce County through their programs and food banks.

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