State penitentiary’s ‘Victory Garden’ provides food to elementary school students


This is the fourth summer the penitentiary’s Victory Garden has been harvested for a good cause.

Rachel Bakken, the facility’s Community Resource Manager, says it’s maintained by two residents.

“These guys work really hard. Every day of the week, Monday through Sunday, they’re out here. And just being able to give back really is good for them. Especially to kids who may need it more than other people,” said Rachel Bakken, the Community Resource Manager at the North Dakota State Penitentiary.

Bakken says produce isn’t the only thing they are growing in the garden. It’s also about planting a seed of purpose in those who are incarcerated.

“I think it’s easy to get in a rabbit hole when you get here. These guys are definitely are motivated. They’re excited when they come out to work,” she said. It’s exciting for them to report back what they’ve all taken out of the garden. So I think it’s very good to build that morale for them and really build that purpose.”

Tomatoes, onions, cabbage, potatoes were given to kids at Roosevelt Elementary in Bismarck.

“We reached out to find out which schools would have maybe the highest need. Which children maybe aren’t getting as much fresh produce and things. And made sure we focused on that target area. Which, is why Roosevelt was chosen,” said Bakken.

Katie Johnke, the Nutrition Services Coordinator for Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health, gave them a quick presentation on the foods.

“I think it’s important for kids to know where their food comes from. I also grew up on a farm, so, I do have some of that personal passion with this program,” said Johnke. “But I do think it’s important for any child to know where their food comes from and connecting it back to learning. And the school piece. It can have a great benefit for them down the road.”

Johnke says the program is ripe with possibilities, but for now, they are going to continue doing this at Roosevelt’s smaller site.

The Department of Corrections plans to continue its community efforts with the different gardens at their facilities.

A total of 400 pounds of produce was harvested from the Victory Garden this summer.

The DOCR says they also plan to donate to local soup kitchens.

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