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People pose at Douglas Senior Center and  Webster Dudley Food Share with donated  vegetables from the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction Farm

By: Kim Ring, Telegram, August 2, 2020

WEST BOYLSTON – The Webster-Dudley Food Share, Webster and Charlton senior centers and Douglas Adult Social Center were on the receiving end of a harvest of vegetables from the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction recently.

For the last decade the jail has run the state’s largest correctional facility farm program. Inmates who qualify and volunteer for the program are joined by maintenance staff at the jail, and together they tend the 15-acre farm growing bell peppers, cabbage, celery, corn, green beans, zucchini, squash, eggplant, tomatoes and, in the fall, a bumper crop of pumpkins.

“The mission of our farm is to feed both our inmate population and to help feed the hungry in our community,” Worcester County Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis said.

During the harvest season, the jail donates and delivers an average of 300 to 500 pounds per day of fresh organic vegetables to food pantries, meals programs, veterans groups and community centers throughout Worcester County.

The delivery on Wednesday brought about 200 pounds of produce to each of the programs in Webster, Charlton and Douglas, Evangelidis said, adding that during the pandemic, the Sherriff’s Department worked harder to better assist those in need.

“Our mission throughout (the pandemic) has been to help those local families who may struggle with food insecurity have access to nutritious food and meals. We are grateful to the Sheriff’s Department for thinking of us and donating hundreds of pounds of fresh organic vegetables from their jail farm to our pantry each week which goes a long way in helping others,” Webster-Dudley Food Share President A.J. Alkire said.

While the Charlton Senior Center has been quiet during COVID-19, Director Elaine Materas said there is still a need, and the produce was a welcome addition to the lunch program.

“This farm gives back in many ways, helping our inmates with the dignity of work while acquiring the skills and patience of farming all while knowing they are helping so many folks in need in our community,” Evangelidis said. “Last year, our farm fed both our inmate population and over 30,000 pounds of fresh produce was donated to help feed the hungry. So far this growing season, Mother Nature and the humidity have been very kind and we are on track for an even more bountiful harvest.”