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New partnership means expanded garden, plasticulture program for Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs

Young offenders to learn plant life, good business practices with hands-on program at detention centers in Manitou and Tecumseh
BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD Published: April 24, 2012

Incarcerated Oklahoma youth will have new menu options starting this spring thanks to a new partnership between the state's Agriculture Department and Office of Juvenile Affairs.

Fruits and vegetables grown in the expanded gardens and greenhouse facilities at Central Oklahoma Juvenile Center in Tecumseh and Southwest Oklahoma Juvenile Center in Manitou will be put on the menu as soon as they are harvested, said Paula Christiansen, spokesman for the state Office of Juvenile Affairs.

Watermelon, tomatoes, okra, peppers, onions and radishes were among foods planted at each of the facilities earlier this month. The program should help juvenile offenders stay healthy while in state custody and also save the department food costs, Christiansen said.

Gardening was started at each site last year, she said, but the Agriculture Department was able to help the juvenile office secure a federal-state grant this year that supported its expansion.

“Now we're taking that same idea and we're expanding on it,” Christiansen said. “Because there was a change in the child nutrition law, the kids can now go from start to finish and really be involved in and eat the vegetables that they grew.”

Micah Anderson, with the state Agriculture Department's plasticulture program, visited the two facilities in early April and installed a drip irrigation system beneath plastic tarps tied tight over tilled earth.

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