For hundreds of hungry Vermonters, these potatoes will serve as fresh produce this Thanksgiving. For Matt Williams, they lead to a fresh start.
"The only way to get time off your sentence is by coming to the work camp and working five days a week, so it's definitely a privilege," Williams said.
The Rutland High School grad spent the past six Thanksgivings in prison. "Auto theft, high speed pursuits, forgery -- I was a drug addict," he said.
Now he's on a team of eight inmates at the Southeast State Correctional Facility, cleaning and bagging donated potatoes to local food shelves for the holidays in exchange for a shorter sentence.
The program has been Teresa Snow's dream since 2004. Monday it became a reality. "It's kind of like, whew it's about time," Snow said. Thirty-thousand pounds of potatoes were donated for this pilot project. Snow and her organization, Salvation Farms, want the next round to be surplus produce from farms across the state.
Governor Peter Shumlin stopped by to guarantee an investment in this idea. "put 'em to work, get some value for Vermont taxpayers and get food to people who would otherwise go hungry, so it's a great program," he said.
"It's really big to see people recognize your innovation, your ideas," Snow said.
To Matt Williams, the program is so much more than simply potatoes -- it's a sense of purpose. "I want to go to college, it's always been my desire to go to college. I'm 25 now and I don't think it's too late," he said.
Giving all parties something to be thankful for this season.
The potatoes were driven to Brattleboro. From there they were distributed to food shelves in the southeastern part of the state.
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