This recession is causing a lot of people to go hungry. People who just a year or two ago had no problem putting food on the table now don’t always know where their next meal will come from. They are turning to our nation’s food banks in record numbers. Our food banks, in turn, are looking to prison inmates to help them meet the needs of the hungry.

According to the Associated Press, here are some of the things that inmates are doing.

  • Going into already harvested fields to scavenge millions of pounds of leftover potatoes, berries and other crops that otherwise would go to waste
  • Planting and harvesting vegetables
  • Sorting, cleaning, shelving and cooking food at food banks
  • Obtaining skills such as fork lift operating and inventory management
In San Antonio Texas, inmates even have the opportunity to enroll in the local food bank’s culinary school. They learn cooking, food safety, and tools of the hospitality trade.

The prisoners who are released daily from prison to work in the food bank programs are “nonviolent, short-term offenders convicted of such crimes as drug possession or theft.” The skills they learn from programs like this could translate into real jobs once they are released from prison.

This is a win-win-win program. Millions of pounds of fresh produce that would otherwise go to waste is being saved. The hungry are being fed. Inmates are learning marketable skills.

Image: chidorian 

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.