The Illinois Department of Corrections has started a sustainability initiative that includes planting gardens on prison grounds which have yielded enough produce to assist local food banks.
This trend of prison gardens stems from the department's commitment to conserving energy, reducing waste, growing more of its own food and working to become a more self-sufficient agency. The initiative is said to save taxpayer dollars, create offender vocational and job training opportunities and reduce the environmental impact of IDOC operations.
Not only have the gardens helped benefit IDOC and prison inmates, but also needy families in the surrounding communities. IDOC Director S.A. "Tony" Godinez, said this year alone IDOC facilities have donated more than 5,000 pounds of fresh produce to local community food banks. Godinez says this is a great benefit to the community, but also sets a great example for inmates to follow.
There are currently 23 prisons and several work camps that have incorporated gardens into their prison grounds, with produce ranging from potatoes and lettuce to green beans and sweet corn. Other crops include peppers, broccoli, onions and cucumbers, just to name a few. The donations have been especially helpful during the hot summer months.
Rachel Baker, manager of the Two Rivers Food Pantry in Pittsfield says that the Pittsfield Work Camp garden has provided nutritional resources that otherwise would not be available to those they serve and that the agency and needy families are very appreciative of the donations.
Click here to find out more about on prison gardens and IDOC's sustainability initiative.
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