Food banks are turning to prison inmates for free labor to help feed the hungry, reports the Associated Press. Several states are sending inmates into harvested fields to scavenge millions of pounds of leftover potatoes, berries, and other crops that otherwise would go to waste. Others are using prisoners to plant and harvest vegetables.
“We’re in a situation where, without their help, the food banks absolutely could not accomplish all that they do,” said Ross Fraser of Feeding America, a national association of food banks. The number of Americans who couldn’t afford food jumped 30 percent from December 2007 to December 2008. Ohio and Michigan are among states that have expanded inmate farming projects specifically to feed the hungry. Texas and Arkansas plan to enhance food bank work-training programs, which provide labor and help make offenders employable when they’re released. Food banks use inmates to sort, clean, shelve, and cook food.