A now-official partnership between the Southeast Missouri Food Bank and the Southeast Correctional Center’s Restorative Justice Program is helping to get fresh produce to the food insecure of the region.
Fresh produce is one of the hardest food items to secure for food banks, which is why inmates at the center, located in Charleston, manage a seven-acre “justice garden” on-site, and donate the reaped produce to the SEMO Food Bank.
Chief advancement officer for the food bank, Joey Keys, says the partnership is not only beneficial for them, but also for the inmates involved.
“They learn horticulture skills and growing skills,” says Keys. “So it helps them when they’re nearing release- they can go out and maybe find a job in that field.”
Keys says they just started receiving produce from the justice garden for the season, including lettuce, radishes, watermelon, and even strawberries.
According to a press release, Restorative Justice Program gardens yielded nearly 133 tons of produce for food banks statewide just last year.