Inmates at seven North Carolina prisons have grown 16,250 pounds of fresh produce for local food banks and soup kitchens since the Combating Hunger program launched last spring.
The initiative is a partnership with the nonprofit Harvest Now, which has helped set up similar programs in other states.
North Carolina Public Safety Department Spokesman Keith Acree says this will allow nearby charities to provide more nutritious food to people in their communities.
"One of the scarcest commodities in the food banks is fresh produce. It's easy for them to get canned goods and boxed foods and things that have a long shelf-life, but fresh produce is much harder to come by and it's something they value greatly."
Acree says inmates aren't paid to garden; the program depends on volunteer labor. Some participating prisons link their gardening programs with a horticulture class, which allows inmates to earn sentence reduction credits.
There are 56 prisons in the state. Acree says DPS plans to expand the Combating Hunger program in years to come.