“Nationwide, we now have more prisoners than we do farmers. We have more incarcerated people in this country than we have people growing food.”
Well known food justice advocate Leah Penniman of Soul Fire Farm offers yet another shocking measure of the excessive and racialized use of punishment in the United States. She connects the history of industrial agriculture with the roots of mass incarceration through the leasing of formerly enslaved people branded as convicts and emphasizes the scarcity of fresh food in many Black communities today. And like us, Penniman believes that as long as prisons and jails exist the growing movement for food justice must reach inside them.
Watch her keynote address from an August 30th event in Mount Desert, Maine, organized in part to support our new project Chefs In Prisons, and scroll down to learn more about that project.
Access to fresh, healthy, and appealing food in prison is both a fundamental human right and necessary to promote the health and wellbeing crucial to success after release. We launched Chefs In Prisons in partnership with renowned chef Dan Guisti and his company Brigaid and are piloting it in Maine with the support of the state department of corrections.
Chefs In Prisons has the potential to transform correctional food services much the same way Brigaid has transformed food in public schools. The project features new approaches to menu planning, food procurement, and cooking and includes providing quality culinary training to every incarcerated person assigned to work in a prison kitchen, which has the added benefit of boosting their employment prospects after release. You too can support Chefs in Prison by donating to our matching funds campaign: https://impactjustice.salsalabs.org/ChefsinPrisonDonationPage
Chefs In Prisons is just one of the creative solutions we’re pioneering in response to the poor quality of food in prisons and jails nationwide, a problem we documented in our 2020 report Eating Behind Bars.
Photo featured with this piece on our home page and elsewhere on the site courtesy of Laura McDonald.