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Bringing locally grown produce to institutions

Incarcerated people enjoying fresh produce and fruit in a CDCR prison.
Fresh fruit and produce, such as California pears, are being served in CDCR institutions through the Harvest of the Month program.

Harvest of the Month supports small farmers

To celebrate the Sacramento region’s 10-year anniversary as America’s Farm-to-Fork capital, CDCR, in collaboration with Impact Justice’s Food in Prison program, unveiled a new initiative to bring locally grown produce to its institutions.

CDCR’s commitment to promoting local agriculture and culinary excellence is an achievement worth celebrating. “Harvest of the Month” (HOTM) showcases the department’s dedication to sustainable food practices and supporting local farmers and food hubs.

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The program began in July 2023 with three institutions and will increase by three institutions quarterly until all institutions are involved. HOTM allows CDCR to work with local food hubs who unite small farmers to feed incarcerated individuals in CDCR prisons.

“Assembly Bill 778 requires CDCR to purchase 60 percent of its agriculture goods from the state of California,” says Lance Eshelman, CDCR Departmental Food Administrator, Department of Adult Institutions. “Our goal is to have all 33 institutions participating in HOTM by October 2025.”

CDCR is collaborating with Impact Justice, which advocates for the importance of the HOTM program to implement best practices that enhance healthy food to all incarcerated individuals, regardless of background or sentence length.

Fresh produce means better health for population

HOTM is providing nutritious meals that can contribute to better physical health for incarcerated individuals. A diet rich with fresh fruit and vegetables can prevent diet-related health issues.

“This Harvest of the Month program is a win-win-win for everyone involved,” says Heile Gantan, Program Associate, Food in Prison, Impact Justice. “It’s a win for one, the department, because they’re able to now comply with policy and legislation that recently passed that requires state-run institutions to purchase California-grown products for those they serve. The next win is for California growers and small farms.

“Because of this policy, they now have the ability to supply the market of the state departments and thankfully with the help of a food hub they are able to aggregate the produce from these smaller farmers that otherwise wouldn’t, and the last win is residents who will receive a variety of healthy foods.”

Effort is well-received by population

As CDCR introduces new and improved food options, there is a sense of excitement and positivity among incarcerated individuals.

“Our population here, they love new things. This program has offered so much more variety and they love it,” says Gina Schnabel, Assistant Food Service Manager, CSP-Solano. “They’re getting something new, and everybody’s buzzing about it.”

This program is in line with the California Model, a systemwide shift to creating a more normal correctional environment. The program offers varieties of produce not commonly seen in daily meals.

“We’re moving within the department to provide normalcy, even with our food trays,” says Eshelman.

Story by Todd Javernick, Information Officer
Video by Rob Stewart, TV Specialist
Office of Public and Employee Communications

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Learn more about the California Model on the CDCR website.

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