City Harvest Celebrates Four Years

City Harvest Fall09 Party 002

The Health Promotion Council's Lynne Snyder and Robin Rifkin and City Harvest participant Theresa Burton. Proceeds of the Philadelphia Flower Show go to Philadelphia Green programs including City Harvest.

City Harvest, an innovative program that provides fresh produce to families in need, celebrated the culmination of its fourth growing season at the Philadelphia Prison System on Oct. 8.

“Anybody in an orange jump suit will tell you, we want to get out,” said inmate Jason Castro, who has been participating in the City Harvest program for the last five months. “[The program] has literally been a breath of fresh air. It’s nothing but a big chain and it starts here with us inmates. I’ve been taking and taking. This is a first step for us to give back.”

Through the program, seedlings are grown by inmates at the Roots-to-Re-Entry Greenhouse and by volunteers at a greenhouse at the Weaver’s Way Co-op Farm. These seedlings are distributed and planted in community gardens and at the extensive garden at the prison. Inmate gardeners harvest the produce and donate it through SHARE food cupboards to families in need. The Health Promotion Council provides opportunities for the recipients to learn to cook and enjoy the harvest in healthy and nutritious ways. The program feeds 640 families each week through the growing season.

 “The horticultural society has been of the most consistent, hard-working and cooperative groups we’ve ever worked with,” Prison Commissioner Louis Giorla said.

“[This program] is about being a part of something larger than you are,” said Steveanna Wynn, executive director of SHARE. “The food cupboards are the angels of Philadelphia. There’s a whole choir in my brain when I think about the program and everyone in one place.”

Designed to address issues of hunger, nutrition and food insecurity and simultaneously demonstrate the importance of community gardens to the quality of life in Philadelphia, City Harvest also provides a job readiness opportunity at PPS that can lead to possible employment opportunities in the green collar job realm.   

“The work we do here has grown and evolved,” PHS Program Manager Claire Baker said. “We are actively working with the prison and other partners to create a job component. The story begins here. Hopefully, it won’t end here.”


Guests feasted on organic vegetables grown as part of the program and took tours of the prison greenhouse, including its “Roots to Re-Entry Garden” and new solar hot-water heater.


Pavers recycled from the 2009 Philadelphia Flower Show were used for a patio in front of the hoop house at the Philadelphia Prison System. City Harvest participants took a workshop from E.P. Henry on how to install hardscaping.


Jake is one of the organic pest control methods used at the Philadelphia Prison System.

Jake is one of the organic pest control methods used at the Philadelphia Prison System.


City Harvest is made possible through founding support of The Albert M. Greenfield Foundation, with additional support from the Philadelphia Prison System, Forrest & Frances Lattner Foundation, the Lawrence Saunders Fund, the Claniel Foundation, the Burpee Foundation, and Gardenburger.

To read a recent article about City Harvest in the Northeast Times, visit here.


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