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Five urban garden programs that train inmates and help communities

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Roots to Re-entry in Action: The Roots to Re-entry is unique in its level of integration with other environmental initiatives across the city. Besides teaching inmates job skills, the program has distributed 47,000 pounds of organic produce to needy families. Inmates have raised thousands of seedlings that are distributed to 42 community gardens participating in the Philadelphia Horticultural Society’s City Harvest program. The resulting produce is donated to local food pantries operated by a local nonprofit called SHARE, which gives the produce to low-income residents along with the Health Promotion Council, an organization that holds nutrition education classes for vulnerable and at-risk populations.

“It’s a beautiful thing to plant something and see it grow,” said inmate Larry Brand. “It makes me feel like I’m giving back for some of the things I did wrong.”

3. GreenHouse: Started in 1996, GreenHouse is a garden program designed to rehabilitate convicts in Rikers Island in New York City. With a greenhouse, a classroom, and over 2-1/2 acres of landscaped and productive gardens designed and built by inmates, participants receive applied skills, including woodworking and building planters, and job counseling from the program. Each year about 125 inmates participate in the program. Once released, GreenHouse offers 9- to 12-month paid internships as part of the Green Team, where individuals maintain gardens at public libraries and in other spaces throughout the city, earning $7 to $10 an hour.

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