SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - Smith County Jail inmates are out this week, doing some farm work to help the hungry in the community.
A joint effort between the Smith County Sheriff's office and the East Texas Food Bank allows inmates to pick vegetables, with 100% of the going to needy families.
The garden, which was opened in 2010, provides fresh, nutritious vegetables to over 100,000 East Texans.
"We've got almost five acres here and this garden has produced over 120,000 pounds of fresh produce," said East Texas Food Bank's Karolyn Davis.
By the end of the week, inmates from the Smith County jail will have harvested the entire field, picking 34,000 pounds of potatoes and donating all of them to the East Texas Food Bank.
"Produce is one of the most expensive items when you go to the grocery store," Davis said. "We're grateful that we have healthy, nutritious foods to provide for East Texans that are struggling to provide for their families."
The project also allows inmates with good standing to get out and make a difference in the community.
"It's rewarding for them," said Smith County Sheriff's Office's John Moore. "They get to get out and do something that makes them feel good about themselves. They know that they're helping others, especially for those that are in jail. That's the kind of thing that they really need."
After they finish collecting the potatoes, the work starts all over again.
"After the potatoes come up, we'll go back and plant peas," Moore said. "We rotate crops and we have a lot of different vegetables so that we have some variety for the people and the food bank."
The East Texas Food Bank said they have been able to serve more than 80,000 meals using produce grown in the garden since it opened three years ago.