The CIW (California Institute for Women) Prison Garden project, an organic farm inside a women's prison in Chino, CA, is a finalist for the Mountain Dew "Energize Your Community" Contest, which awards $10,000 grants to support innovative community projects. The CIW project was selected as one of 10 finalists out of roughly 100 original submissions. Of the current 10 finalists, five projects will be selected through online voting to win the monetary prize. The California Institute for Women is located in Chino, CA, just 35 minutes from the Claremont Colleges. The garden was created in part by five Scripps students: Hannah Segal ('09), Adrian Hodos ('09), Cassie Gamm ('11), Halley Everall ('10) and Samantha Meyer (PO '10), all of whom are involved in the 5C Criminal Justice Network. The network was founded three years ago by Scripps students to raise awareness of prison-related issues at the Claremont Colleges through a combination of activism and education. For the past three years, Hodos and Segal have served as the organization's co-leaders. The network brings members of the Claremont community to the garden to work with women inside CIW.
The food grown in the garden is used in the kitchen at CIW, with the aim of reducing food-related illness, such as obesity and diabetes. It provides women with fresh fruits and vegetables, which are often in short supply. Everall said, "If you ask the women inside what they're most excited about, they'll tell you ‘the vegetables'. Right now, these women have no fresh fruit or vegetables. Our main goal is to change this by implementing fresh produce from our garden into their diets."
The garden is entirely organic and uses sustainable agriculture practices. In addition to promoting community involvement and healthy eating, the garden fosters discourse on environmental issues and women's health at CIW. The garden serves as a therapeutic and meditative space in which women are encouraged to engage and involve themselves. Through the act of gardening, women are encouraged to develop new interests and skills, which could translate to employment when released from prison.
The CIW garden project has brought together two distinct communities—the women at CIW and the students involved in the 5C Criminal Justice Network—to work together toward the same goal: sustaining a long-term project that will greatly benefit CIW. Everall said, "The students involved are learning just as much from the process as the women are. Gardening is a productive and often therapeutic activity, which is why everyone benefits so much from it. I personally have learned so much from the 5C Criminal Justice Network about gardening and sustainability."
The continued growth and success of the project depends on funding. Securing the $10,000 grant would be instrumental in the lasting sustainability of the garden. Everall said, "As long as we have the funds, this garden will continue to grow—there are infinite possibilities."
If awarded the grant, Everall added, "We are planning to use the money for buying a greenhouse and hopefully materials to build a gazebo, where the women inside can go after a hard day's work, relax and reflect, and have some serenity. We are also hoping to plant a huge orchard, which will produce a lot of fruit."
To help the CIW Garden be one of five community projects to win a $10,000 grant, please vote online at www.energizeyourcommunity.com. Voting will take place from April 15 to 29. The voice staff asks the Scripps community to join us in offering support to the CIW Garden Project by casting as many votes as possible.