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Harvest of the Month: The Change in Prisoners' Nutrition throughout California

Posted by Sara Cooper | Oct 11, 2023 | 0 Comments

Most people wouldn't think farms and prisoners collaborate on projects together to serve incarcerated individuals, but this a better change for the future.

Three facilities in California: California State Prison Solano, California Medical Facility, and Folsom State Prison are all part of a “farms to corrections” project, Harvest of the Month, that gives fresh produce for California prisoners and broadens experiences for state farmers.

“We appreciate that someone cares enough to introduce this program that gives us something new,” said Jason Romero, a California State Prison Solano resident. “We look forward to what's coming in the future – California has the best stuff, right? – and hopefully we get other varieties of stuff.”

The Nutrition Policy Institute, Impact Justice, and ChangeLab Solutions work with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to delivery watermelons to correctional facilities in July, pluots in August, and pears in September every year.

“It's a ‘multiple wins' kind of an effort,” said Wendi Gosliner, the NPI principal investigator on the California Department of Food and Agriculture specialty crop block grant supporting the project. “The funding is available because the state is looking for state partners to purchase and expand the markets for California-grown fruits and vegetables. And we know that getting more of those fruits and vegetables on the plates of people who are incarcerated would be a huge bonus for them.”

These are produce that prisoners actually look forward to eating and becoming a part of their way to learn about nutrition that they might have not learned while being on the outside.

This is now being planned to be extended out to all 33 CDCR facilities within the next two years, celebrating Harvest of the Month for all those incarcerated to feel anticipated about.

“Food brings individuals together and introducing new products can give those in the care of CDCR something to talk about, as well as look forward to,” said Lance Eshelman, CDCR's departmental food administrator.

Impact Justice leads this program in order to bring more support to prisoners with their health in all aspects – emotional, physical, and mental.

“We really want to prioritize the holistic well-being of an individual to help ensure that once they come home from incarceration, they are in a place where they are ready to actually contribute back to society,” said Heile Gantan, program associate with the Food in Prison Project at Impact Justice.

Both AB 822 and AB 778 were key players in requiring state agencies to by California produce for CDCR if the price guage was 5 percent of less, and by 2025, 60 percent of food bought by CDCR and other state-run institutions must be grown here locally.

So much produce is cultivated and spread out inside and out of California, and everyone deserves access to fresh fruit and vegetables no matter your status with the government.

Nutrition is more than just a full stomach but a clear mind and drive to operate healthily each and every day.

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