Inmates at Johnston Correctional Institution along with several other state prisons across North Carolina raised approximately 16,250 pounds of fresh produce and donated it to local food banks, community pantries and social service organizations this year as part of the Combating Hunger project launched in the spring.
The North Carolina Department of Public Safety entered into a partnership with Harvest Now, a national non-profit already working with several other state prison systems with a mission is to fight hunger and improve health in communities.
Fresh produce is one of the most expensive and scarcest commodities in North Carolina food banks, and Harvest Now sought the NCDPS prison system’s help in providing reliable, local sources of donated fresh produce.
In the spring of 2015, inmates started growing vegetables at Johnston Correctional in Smithfield and other prison gardens across the state while partnering with food banks, food pantries, or soup kitchens in their local communities to receive the harvests. The prisons also worked with local community colleges or agricultural extension offices for expertise and advice on planting and tending their gardens.
Johnston Correctional inmates grew a number of items including squash, watermelons, tomatoes, and kale which was donated to food pantries and shelters in Wake and Johnston Counties.
Other facilities participating included: Brown Creek Correctional in Polton, Pamlico Correctional in Bayboro, Odom Correctional in Jackson, Pender Correctional in Burgaw, and Southern Correctional in Troy.
“This program has proven very beneficial to inmates and offenders, by teaching agricultural skills, providing new work opportunities and helping them give back to communities,” said David Guice, commissioner of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice. “They can see the fruits of their labor and know that they are helping others who cannot afford to feed themselves.”
A few prisons are now growing winter gardens and several more plan to join the Combating Hunger program with the new growing season in the spring.
More information about Harvest Now is available at www.Harvest-Now.net.