Going back to basics with prisoners

Going back to basics with prisoners

We created courses for our beneficiaries as many of them haven’t had the opportunity to cook fresh food, let alone learn how to budget before. An essential part of our work with prisons is to support new food-growing projects, but it’s also important to teach the prisoners how to cook the food they’ve grown. Knowing how to grow, source, prepare and cook food, so it retains as much nutrition as possible, is such a vital tool that many of us take for granted.

Our courses include top tips such as growing and eating seasonal foods, foraging ideas, and where to find fresh food on a tight budget.

Cooking on a Shoe String

During one of these sessions at HMP Hollesley Bay almost everything we cooked was grown in the prison gardens. In addition we bought 3 chickens from the supermarket; one cheap, one medium-priced and one higher-priced free-range chicken.

The idea was to demonstrate that, although the cheapest might seem the best, when they were all cooked the more expensive represented better value as it did not shrink, was tastier and more filling. Ethics aside, free range animals have so much more exercise that a single chicken would provide you with four meals instead of two! We explained that animals stressed by battery conditions are often fed more chemicals such as antibiotics and they contain more fat having had little or no exercise.

As a group we also discussed the basic dry goods that you should aim to have in your store cupboard, like couscous, brown rice, onions, garlic and soy sauce, so if things get tight towards the end of the week you can still make a meal.

The proof is in the pudding (or the chicken)

The cooking! We looked at what we had in our kitchen store cupboard and on this occasion everyone chose what they wanted to make. We made pizzas, with fresh herb bases adding nutrition as well as taste, chicken and fresh vegetable topping. There was also roast chicken with roasted vegetables, chicken soup and vegetable ratatouille. We then sat together and shared the food we’d made.

Just as we finished clearing up one of the younger men gave us one of the two small pizzas he’d made. He loves pizza. This was his way of saying thank you and it made the entire day even more worthwhile.

Each time we run the course (once a fortnight) we get three or four people knocking on the door, asking if they can be put on the list for next time. It seems to be a valuable and popular initiative at the prison!

If this is something you’d like to get involved with, or you have any other ideas, please do get in touch.

Helping prison communities

Helping prison communities

Our work doesn’t stop when we leave, we intend for it to have a lasting impact. For one group of people this rings particularly true. Through our work with prisons and their inmates we strive to help them not only on the prison grounds, but beyond. The benefits of horticulture are seen in people’s wellbeing and nutritional information will help them eat healthy balanced diets going forward.

A big part of our work, however, lies in the rehabilitation of the prisoners. Real rehabilitation is about coming to terms with the past whilst creating positive plans for the future, filled with new possibilities. We’ve found that people who find work upon being released rarely re-offend.

The longer we work in prisons, the more we recognise many of the prisoners were incarcerated at a point of profound crisis in their lives. Yes, there are some who may be serial offenders, but many are in for first-time offences and very keen to create, even re- invent, their lives upon release. We firmly believe anyone can make changes if given the right resources. By discussing their options, as we explore the virtues of growing fresh food and eating healthily, we build bridges of encouragement that may lead to refreshing new ideas. It’s planting seeds metaphorically, as well as literally.

Every prisoner who work with us consistently receives a Greener Growth Certificate of Attendance for each section of our courses. This is then added to their folder alongside our information and a testimonial, which will help them when they leave prison. The folder will be presented to them when they leave or move on and it will help them maintain contact with Greener Growth, if they choose to pass on the help they themselves received.

Our work with prisons covers the following:

If you feel inspired by some of the work we do, why not get involved? Here are some of the ways you can get help us. If you have other ideas, get in touch via our contact form.