Inmates at Frontenac Institution have been gardening for a number of years. After the Collins Bay prison farm was closed in 2010, the inmates received a half acre of land for gardening use. From the beginning, produce was often donated to the Partners in Mission Food Bank and over time this led to a formalized partnership.
This is an excellent example of a win-win partnership leading to a fruitful social innovation. The arrangement allows the Food Bank to supplement their offerings with fresh fruits and vegetables, which are often more difficult to source than non-perishable items. The garden also provides inmates with volunteer opportunities that help to develop key life skills and provide a way to give back to the community. The result of this partnership was 30,000 pounds of fresh produce donated to the Food Bank last year – and as much as 60,000 pounds in previous years.
When we think of innovation we tend to think of the newest advancement in technology and certainly this is an example. I believe though that innovation should be thought of more broadly to include any new and creative approach, method, or tool. The Food Bank garden is a perfect example of how working together to re-purpose existing community resources can help us address different needs in the community. A program like this that helps both inmates and food bank clients at the same time has great potential to be replicated in other communities.
If you know of a fresh or innovative approach being taken by a community group, organization or business, I want to hear about it. Connect with me on Twitter and Instagram by following @MayorPaterson and the hashtag #MITour.