A record 163 tons of fresh fruit and vegetables grown by Missouri prisoners was donated to local food pantries, shelters, churches, nursing homes and schools this year, shattering last year's record of 117 tons.
The Missouri Department of Corrections yesterday announced the yearly distribution total for its Restorative Justice Garden Program.
"This year's record harvest is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our staff and offenders who are helping the less fortunate throughout Missouri," said George Lombardi, Missouri Department of Corrections director. He said in a news release that the program provides offenders "the means to help repay their debt to society, and it teaches them the value of compassion, which is a quality many of them lack in their lives."
Northeast Missouri Correctional Center in Bowling Green was the department's top producer this year with more than 62,000 pounds of produce donated. Boonville Correctional Center donated the second-largest amount of produce with more than 49,100 pounds, while the Jefferson City Correctional Center donated more than 47,400 pounds. Moberly Correctional Center also donated 5,000 plants to local food pantries as well as to the Boonville Correctional Center's Restorative Justice Garden.
Department officials said the program operates without the assistance of tax dollars. All of the seeds and plants for the gardens are donated to the institutions, and in return, all the produce grown is then donated to local food pantries, shelters, churches and school districts.
A variety of produce is grown at 20 of the 21 adult institutions and three of the community supervision centers. Some examples of produce grown throughout the year at the institutions include tomatoes, bell peppers, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, zucchini, yellow squash, butternut squash, cucumbers, carrots, green beans, cantaloupe, watermelon, okra, onions, potatoes and pumpkins.