We’re thrilled to announce that Impact Justice was recently awarded funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. One of 36 awards provided through the USDA’s competitive Regional Food System Partnerships Program, the grant will allow us to break through barriers and work toward increasing the amount of locally and regionally-grown foods in jails and prisons across Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.
As highlighted in our national report, Eating Behind Bars: Ending the Hidden Punishment of Food in Prison, people who are incarcerated often lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables and quality proteins, critical parts of a healthy diet. Connecting local and regional food producers with correctional facilities is part of solving the problem.
With this USDA funding, we’ll bring together a diverse group of partners and advisors with expertise in food systems, reentry programming, and cooperative development, including Farm to Institution New England, the Maine Department of Corrections, and other regional organizations. Their focus: build a roadmap for creating a worker-owned cooperative to connect New England food producers, food hubs, and corrections departments. Led by individuals who have been directly impacted by incarceration, this first-of-its-kind cooperative will bridge divides and logistical challenges that currently prevent corrections departments from buying fresh local and regional foods. If it works in New England, it could become a model nationally.
“We’re so excited the USDA is supporting this innovative initiative focused on farm to corrections work,” says Leslie Soble, Senior Program Manager at Impact Justice. “Our team is imagining a new way to increase access to nourishing food for people who are incarcerated, while also strengthening local economies and creating contexts for leadership by individuals who have been directly impacted by the carceral system. We can’t wait to get started.”
This new partnership is just one example of our work to transform the experience of eating behind bars in jails and prisons across the nation. Learn more at https://impactjustice.org/innovation/food-in-prison/