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Corrections' Hope Gardens Donate Over 73,879 Pounds of Produce During Pandemic

November 4, 2020

By Rachel Friederich

DOC Communications

Man planting seeds in rows of a garden bed

An incarcerated individual plants squash seeds at the site of the Washington Corrections Center’s Hope Garden. Produce form the Hope Garden was donated this summer to local food banks to address food insecurity caused by the pandemic. (Photo Courtesy of Washington Corrections Center)

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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, so has food insecurity.

A new report (pdf), published last month by the Washington State Food Security Survey, estimates 30% of all households in the state of Washington were food insecure as a direct result of the pandemic. The number is even higher—50% to 58%--among low-income households and households with children.

As local food banks struggle to meet growing demand, the Department of Corrections stepped in to help.

While facility kitchens use fresh produce whenever possible, facility gardens often grow a surplus that cannot be used before it goes bad. Several of the department’s prisons expanded their gardening projects even further, giving incarcerated individuals the opportunity to grow additional produce for donation to local food banks.

Since the Hope Gardens project took off in May, incarcerated individuals have cultivated, harvested and donated more than 73,879 pounds of produce for local organizations addressing hunger in communities. That’s nearly 37 tons of food and counting. A few facilities are still wrapping up their fall harvests of items like pumpkins and squash.

“The Corrections' Hope Gardens give individuals incarcerated in Washington correctional facilities an opportunity to give back to their communities at a time when it’s needed the most,” said Corrections Secretary Stephen Sinclair. “It also gives them a chance to learn about gardening, a skill they can use when they return home to restart their lives.”

Correctional facilities across the state are reporting success with their Hope Gardens. For example, incarcerated individuals at Washington Corrections Center in Shelton grew and harvested more than six-and-a-half tons of vegetables that were distributed to three food banks in Mason and Thurston counties.

“During normal times, these gardens provide healthy, fresh food for those in need,” said Washington Corrections Center Superintendent Dan White. “During these most difficult times, when many in our communities are really struggling to maintain hope, we are providing a glimmer of hope in the form of a donation of healthy, fresh, vegetables. We are all in this together.”

By early October, the Corrections’ Hope Gardens had provided the following produce donations to community organizations:

Airway Heights Corrections Center (Spokane County)

Clallam Bay Corrections Center (Clallam County)

Coyote Ridge Corrections Center (Franklin County)

  • 600 pounds of produce divided among Washtucna Food Bank in Adams County and Connell Food Bank

Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women (Mason County)

Monroe Correctional Complex (Snohomish County)

Between September and October, produce from the Hope Gardens at Monroe Correctional Complex donated fresh vegetables to the Sky Valley Food Bank, Lake Stevens Community Food Bank, Snohomish Community Food Bank, and Frank Wagner Elementary School in Monroe.

  • Twin Rivers Unit - 7,549 pounds
  • Minimum Security Unit - 400 pounds
  • Washington State Reformatory Unit – 6,565 pounds donated to the Arlington Food Bank

Olympic Corrections Center (Clallam County)

Stafford Creek Corrections Center (Grays Harbor County)

Washington Corrections Center (Mason County)

Washington Corrections Center for Women (Pierce County)

Washington State PenitentiarySustainable Practices Lab (Walla Walla County)