Helping Works

Growing for good: Prison farm donates to food bank

Inmates at the South Idaho Correctional Institution began clearing land for farming in 2010. The annual prison farm program provides meaningful work for inmates and thousands of pounds of fresh produce for Idaho families.
Inmates at the South Idaho Correctional Institution began clearing land for farming in 2010. The annual prison farm program provides meaningful work for inmates and thousands of pounds of fresh produce for Idaho families. Idaho Statesman file photo

I first wrote about the farming operation at the Idaho Department of Correction in 2010. As I noted back then, farming is hardly new to prisons. Inmates at what is now the Old Penitentiary historic site off Warm Springs Avenue grew gardens and ran a dairy. Hollywood has provided all kinds of images of prison farms in films like “Cool Hand Luke.”

The Idaho Department of Correction in the desert south of Boise once included a dairy and slaughterhouse in addition to fields of crops. It was common, for a while, for prisoners to grow their own food. Growing food on site began to cost more than buying it elsewhere, and the tradition died out.

Back in 2010, IDOC started a new tradition, enlisting inmates to grow crops to be donated to The Idaho Foodbank. The project, supported by private, public and nonprofit organizations, has continued and thrived. That first year, inmates grew produce on 6 acres. This year, they grew crops on 12. The harvest is winding down for the year. Already, IDOC has produced 146,775 pounds of potatoes and 43,339 pounds of squash. That’s close to 200,000 pounds of fresh, local food.

“We are always looking for ways to think outside the box to provide as much nutritious food at the lowest possible cost to reach the largest number of people in need,” said Karen Vauk, president and CEO of The Idaho Foodbank. “This farm not only gives us truckloads of produce that is packed with nutrition, it gives us meal staples that we can distribute for months past the harvest dates.”

IDOC Director Kevin Kempf also sees benefits for the inmates in his care.

“This project puts inmates to work and gives them a chance to give back to the community,” said Kempf. “Through our partnership with the Foodbank, we are able to provide fresh, nutritious produce to hungry Idaho families at virtually no cost to taxpayers.”

Changing times at Create Common Good

Create Common Good, the nonprofit organization that helps refugees and others hone their job skills, will close its farm and its CSA program at the end of the growing season.

The group began using the 3-acre plot in Southeast Boise for job training back in 2010. Time and experience revealed that the skills people gained at the farm led only to temporary agricultural jobs, not year-round employment. So in 2012, the farm shifted its focus to community projects at the farm, including the production of CSA farm shares (or “community supported agriculture” where customers pay a lump sum and collect their food shares each week). With that program ending, Create Common Good will focus on its original mission of job training and placement.

Eastwind Community Church owns the farmland and had donated its use to Create Common Good. Organization staffers say the church wants the property to remain farmland and is looking for a new partner. Call Create Common Good at 208-258-6800 for more information.

35 anti-hunger organizations receive $90,000 from the Idaho Food Bank Fund

The Idaho State Legislature established the Idaho Food Bank Fund in 2009 as a cooperative effort among The Idaho Foodbank, Community Action Partnership Association of Idaho and Catholic Charities of Idaho. The program allows Idaho taxpayers to donate to the fund on their tax forms.

The fund accepted grant applications from any Idaho nonprofit focused on solving hunger and for projects like expanding existing food storage or distribution capacities, providing nutrition education or other services related to hunger relief in Idaho.

Organizations from all over the state were among the 35 selected to receive a grant this year. Life’s Kitchen in Boise ($5,000 for upgrades to shelving, immersion blender and food processor). The Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Nampa ($2,500 for a freezer replacement) and The Salvation Army in Caldwell ($1,500 for its food pantry) were the recipients in the Treasure Valley.

For more information about the grants, email

Want to be a SnowSchool volunteer leader?

Join Bogus Basin staffers for a slide-show presentation and learn what it takes to become a volunteer leader with the SnowSchool, a Winter Wildlands Alliance program. The presentation is at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 4 at REI Boise, 8300 W. Emerald.

Volunteers lead field trips at Bogus, sharing their knowledge of snowshoeing and the great outdoors with their fellow winter enthusiasts. The presentation will cover volunteer responsibilities, training schedule and what to expect from a school field trip. Pre-register online at Call 208-322-1141 x208 for more details.

Judaic Studies lectureship welcomes Dana Katz

The College of Idaho’s Craig H. Neilsen Foundation Lectureship in Judaic Studies its first speaker of the 2015-16 school year, Dana Katz, of Reed College. She will present “Making Margins in the Venetian Ghetto” at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 5, in the Sterry Hall third-floor boardroom. The lecture is free and open to the public.

In addition to giving the lecture, Katz will lead the seminar “Picturing Ritual Murder in Renaissance Italy” in the C of I Jewish History course at 2:40 p.m. on Nov. 5 in Boone Hall room 104, followed by a Q&A session.

The Craig H. Neilsen Foundation Lectureship in Judaic Studies brings dignitaries, scholars and public figures to campus to speak about Jewish religion, interfaith dialogue, culture, history, arts and current events. It is part of the college’s recently established Howard Berger-Ray Neilsen Chair in Judaic Studies, which was created to promote greater understanding of Jewish traditions, culture and philosophy in Idaho and the West.

A Volunteer’s story

This is an ongoing feature in the Helping Works column. If you’d like to share your own story, email it to If possible, include a photograph (JPEG format) of yourself. If you can send a photo of yourself volunteering, that’s even better.

From Daryle Layton

I have been volunteering at the Warhawk Air Museum in Nampa since the first of this year. I had visited the museum several times because I am a veteran Navy pilot from the Vietnam War and also love WWII history. One day I checked out the web page for the museum and noticed the note about volunteering. I feel deeply patriotic about out great nation and felt that this would be a small way to give back.

I volunteer as a tour guide, mostly for school children. I enjoy the opportunity to help students understand and appreciate the veteran heritage of our nation. I also volunteer by helping set up and clean up for a monthly meeting held at the museum. This “Kilroy Was Here” event welcomes all veterans regardless of when or where they served for free coffee and treats. It is especially gratifying to see a goodly number of WWII veterans that come to this event. (“Kilroy Was Here” was a popular wartime graffito).

I plan to continue to volunteer at the museum for the foreseeable future. I am retired and thoroughly enjoy this as one way to stay active and involved with the public.

I hope this gives you an idea of why a person volunteers at the Warhawk Air Museum.

Want to learn more about volunteering at the museum? Call 208-465-6446 for more information.