Inmates’ garden helps cut food costs

Surplus produce from garden donated to food bank

As budgets continue to tighten, a state program aims to find ways to cut costs and give back to the hungry.

Inmates at Oakhill Correctional Institution in Oregon are working on a garden, where the produce grown helps feed inmates at there.

“It started as a half acre site,” said Tom Vendebrink, Oakhill garden manager. “And every year or so, the warden asked if I could make it bigger.”

The garden brings in an average of 60,000 pounds of produce every season, enough to help feed the inmates and save taxpayers thousands of dollars.

“It literary cut costs — $25,000 from last year’s harvest, and it probably should be about $30,000 this year,” said Steve Bremer, Oakhill food administrator. “It’s huge. With our budget cuts every year, we get less and less money, and the cost of food goes up; the money we get to spend goes down.”

Any surplus food goes to Second Harvest food bank.

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“Every pound makes a difference,” said Dan Stein of Second Harvest. “And for many, many years, they’ve contributed to this. And we’ve come to expect it and appreciate it when they do donate it to us.”

For inmate Tony Cooper, being able to give back to the community is a big part of getting back on his feet.

“You learn new things, things you can take into the community. Things that you can use as you move forward. It feels good, for me and the guys, being able to come out here and do things to give back to the community,” Cooper said.

This year, Oakhill is expected to produce 80,000 pounds of produce, which means a lot more going to Second Harvest.