A number of facilities around the world are launching prison gardens programs in an endeavor to improve nutrition for inmates, provide a new educational opportunity and tackle a range of common problems within prisons. In the USA, a number of facilities have joined the growing trend in the hope that their efforts will benefit both inmates and the greater community.
In California, a large organic garden cultivated by prisoners produces fresh fruit and vegetables for the hospital and prison kitchens, and related classes teach inmates about environmental sustainability and community care through gardening. Inmates in Washington State have transformed an acre of lawn into an organic vegetable patch. In Wisconsin and New York, a number of correctional institutions have started on-site gardening projects, donating their harvests to food banks and local families in need. Similar project are also being launched in many other parts of the world such as New Zealand, the UK and Mozambique.
Such programs have been shown to improve the nutritional intake of inmates, which can lead to reduced violence and improved mental health, as well as provide an opportunity for inmates to learn horticultural skills that can be used upon release and could therefore reduce re-offending rates. Programs can additionally benefit the local community as surplus produce is often donated to food banks or other community centers or services.
“When you are sentenced you lose your liberty, but you don’t lose other rights,” said Mozambique Justice Minister Benvinda Levy whose government launched a prison garden scheme last year. “You have the right to be fed and you have the right to work. So this project reminds us that the prisoners are still human beings and they’re still with all their rights.”
Slow Food has been involved in similar projects, working with small-scale artisan producers to provide training on cultivation and processing of quality foods. In Vallette prison in Turin, a group of inmates have learnt the art of traditional coffee roasting, using coffee provided by Guatemalan producers from the Slow Food Huehuetenango Highland Coffee Presidium. The project is managed by the social cooperative Pausa Café alongside similar programs with cocoa and beer.
To find out more about Slow Food and Pausa Café’s project:
Source: Planet Green