ECI Prisoners Help Feed Hundreds Of Somerset Co. Families - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

ECI Prisoners Help Feed Hundreds Of Somerset Co. Families

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SOMERSET Co., Md. - From crisp, wholesome greens to extra-large, healthy-looking squash, it's easy to see, this garden is nothing close to amateur.

But the gardeners behind this fruitful bed of vegetables are not who you'd think. Prisoners behind the walls of Eastern Correctional Institution are turning the soil and sowing the seed. And from the sound of it, you'd think Michael Neuerberg has been gardening for years.

"We've learned a lot about soil condition, dealing with what to water, in what order, plants that are deeply rooted, as opposed to growing down in the earth opposed to up," he said.

Michael and eight other inmates spend about eight hours a day tending to the garden. And it's clear they have the blessing of a green thumb, harvesting 1,400 lbs of about 24 different types of produce in just six weeks. The fruits of their labor are seen beyond the prison walls.

"We start vegetables from seed. We transplant from boxes, and then we go into the ground with them until we reach satisfied produce and we donate to the food bank. 14>

About twice a week, zucchini, carrots, and other vegetables are loaded up on a truck and sent to two distribution centers in Somerset County -- helping to feed about 500 families each month.

"We have a lot of food insecurity, meaning that people don't necessarily know where their next food source will be and if they'll be able to afford it," Maty Barker of the Somerset County Health Department said.

A problem inmates like Michael are hoping to change from the ground up.

"We're reaching out and changing someone's lives outside of here. A lot of people here just want to be able to make a difference. You know, you did something to get here, you try to turn your life around and you try to learn from your mistakes," he said.

Not only is this helping the community, Warden Kathleen Green touts the positive impact the program has had with inmates at the prison. She says violence is down, and the garden has really created a calming effect for all the prisoners and staff.


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