Media Release

9 April 2020

Advocates want prison farms to feed food banks during COVID-19 pandemic

KINGSTON, ONTARIO – Prison farm activists are calling on the Trudeau government to immediately convert Kingston’s prison farms into a federally funded food bank project.

In 2018, the Correctional Service of Canada received $4.3 million in federal funds to reopen prison farms at Collins Bay Institution and Joyceville Institution over a five year period.

Between the two sites, there are 1500 acres of prime agricultural farmland, of which only 200 acres have been planted with corn, soybeans and barley intended for livestock.

The core operation will be an industrial goat dairy, with milk destined for the Feihe International infant formula factory that has been constructed in Kingston. The product will be exported to China.

The global pandemic has cast doubt on whether the prison farm program will proceed or be cancelled.

Advocacy group Evolve Our Prison Farms has issued a proposal to Prime Minister Trudeau to put the farms into production of nutrient dense food crops for human consumption, supplying food banks and northern indigenous communities, to urgently address the threat of food insecurity.

The group believes that prison farms should serve a social justice purpose rather than the prison industrial complex.

“Instead of proceeding with the planned industrial goat dairy for Chinese infant formula, there is a substantially more advantageous and urgent approach that can be implemented,” says Calvin Neufeld, founder of Evolve Our Prison Farms.

“1500 acres of plant-based food production can supply hundreds of thousands of Canadian households.”

Last week, the federal government announced $100 million in funding for food banks facing increased demand and fewer donations, and food security experts are warning of shortages to come as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts the entire food system.

“It’s not enough to simply pour money out in the hope that it will translate into food,” says Neufeld. “You need land, you need labour, you need farmers, all of which are in short supply.”

Neufeld points to the prison farms. “The federal funding is there, the land is there, the need is there, prisoners and society would benefit. All that’s needed to connect the dots is political will.”

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More information:

Media Contact:
Calvin Neufeld