Iowa Correctional Institutions Cost Savings through On-site Production of Vegetables

Patrick OMalley, Field Specialist Commercial Horticulture, Southeast

Problem Statement: 

Most of the vegetables used to feed Iowa inmates must be bought from outside sources.  Due to budget constraints, most of the vegetables purchased are canned, which nutritionally are generally inferior to fresh vegetables.

Programmatic Response:

I have conducted workshops, and training through Master Gardener Programs (most recently at Oakdale in January-March 2007) and on-site consultations to help increase and improve vegetable production efficiencies of the correctional facilities.


Fresh vegetables are now grown on-site at the correctional institutes.  Taste and nutritional content are generally superior to canned or frozen vegetables.  Fresh vegetables are well known to contain more antioxidants and phytochemicals and less sodium, thus making inmates less prone to health problems and potentially saving taxpayers health care costs.  Additional benefits are the more benevolent nature of an inmate after consuming fresh watermelon, muskmelon, or sweet corn (according to one of the guards).  These three fresh produce items would normally not be purchased by the prison food service.  The experience of growing vegetables and positively contributing to the prison community and the more healthy and tasty food can possibly lead toward a more stable and less stressful prison atmosphere, thus alleviating some of the intense pressures for both the guards and the inmates.  One prison in the system that has hard figures is Oakdale located near Iowa City.  In 2006 they produced over 140,000 lbs. in vegetables on less than 12 acres.  This represents nearly a doubling of yield from six years ago.  At an average of $1.00/lb that would translate to $140,000 of value.  Approximately less than $20,000 in prisoner pay, supplies, and equipment was expended to produce this yield.  About six other prisons across the state are similarly involved in growing produce and have used ISU Extension to help increase yields and quality of produce.

March 2007
130  Horticulture: Commercial and Consumer

Page last updated: September 27, 2007
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