BAYBORO, N.C. (WNCT) – Prisons across the state are partnering with Harvest Now, a non-profit organization based in Connecticut, in hopes of combating hunger in North Carolina.
The North Carolina Department of Public Safety initiative that launched last spring raised over 16 thousand pounds of fresh produce.
For Pamlico County Correctional Facility, inmates harvested 250 pounds of produce right inside their prison fences for the local Meals-On-Wheels.
“It helps people that need food and stuff like that…and it helps me too,” said inmate Douglas Pender. “To learn more about it, but most important it helps someone in need and I don’t mind helping.”
The program also comes at no cost to taxpayers since the seeds are provided by Harvest Now and inmates get paid a dollar a day for their work.
“It’s a way for the inmates to give back to the community, it’s a way for them to learn and obtain skills that they can take with them upon transition and re-entry back into the community, and they seem to enjoy it,” said Asst. Superintendent of the facility, Lauren Harrell. “It’s had a therapeutic effect, spiritual type thing as well, really it’s a great program.”
But, it’s not that easy and not every inmate gets to do it.
A professor from Pamlico Community College offers his time by teaching horticulture classes to about 15 to 18 inmates a year.
For inmate Pender whose release date is 2023, “What I learned has helped me out so when I get out, I want to do this and I plan on doing that, it will help me with my own garden.”
Pamlico County’s inmate garden has also just finished harvesting their summer crops and are now working on planting their winter garden, all which have been planted using no chemicals.
The program plans to extend their gardens and organizers plan to continue to work with non-profits rather than selling the produce.