SPRINGFIELD -- Local food banks have received 2 ½ tons of fresh produce grown by prison inmates at 23 Illinois facilities this year.
Department of Corrections officials say the prison gardens started as a vocational opportunity for inmates to learn horticulture skills. Some have become large enough to feed inmates and prison staff as well as needy families nearby.
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Corrections Director S.A. "Tony" Godinez says the gardens help the agency build a "culture of sustainability and generosity" and set an example for prisoners to follow upon release.
Produce includes potatoes, lettuce, radishes, green beans, zucchini, cucumbers, eggplant and watermelon.
Rachel Baker is manager of the Two Rivers Food Pantry in Pittsfield. She says the nearby prison work camp's garden has provided food not otherwise available to pantry clients.