The Fortune News: December 2016 - Food & Nutrition

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FOOD & NUTRITION its impact on people with justice involvement The Fortune Society


THE FORTUNE NEWS A publication from The Fortune Society, printed twice a year to inform the public of the work and impact of Fortune’s reentry services and advocacy.




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OUR MISSION Learn about our mission, programs, and services






LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Letters from people in prison


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FOOD & NUTRITION AT THE FORTUNE SOCIETY Our Food & Nutrition program offerings BITING THE BIG APPLE With NYC’s food industry thriving, we’re training clients to keep up SOUL FIRE FARM Where #BlackLivesMatter and #BlackLandMatters


THE CORBIN HILL FOOD PROJECT: Bringing food to those who need it



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BALANCED DIETS, BALANCED LIVES Healthy meals as a key to successful reentry THREE FACES OF FORTUNE Staff, volunteers, and client experiences THE HUNGER FOR UNDERSTANDING, NOT PRISONS Making the case for new public health policies GIVING BACK AND MOVING FORWARD Lonnie’s story MEALS THAT HEAL How community and nutrition impact our clients

GUERRILLA GARDENING THAT CULTIVATES HOPE Environmental Remediation Training at the Smiling Hogshead Ranch ENSURING ACCESS TO NUTRITIOUS FOOD FOR EVERYONE The work of the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy





The Fortune Society’s mission is to support successful reentry from incarceration and promote alternatives to incarceration, thus strengthening the fabric of our communities.

Prepare for Release

We do this by: Believing in the power of individuals to change; Building lives through service programs shaped by the needs and experience of our clients; and Changing minds through education and advocacy to promote the creation of a fair, humane, and truly rehabilitative correctional system.


The Individualized Corrections Achievement Network (I-CAN) program provides skill-building and discharge preparation services to eligible individuals during their incarceration at NYC Department of Corrections (DOC) jails, and offers continuing reentry support following their release.

Health Services The Health Services team primarily serves individuals living with HIV/AIDS, and provides them with vital discharge planning, case management, health education, and connection to quality, community-based treatment and HIV health care.


Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) Fortune’s ATI program reduces the prison and jail population, saves taxpayers millions of dollars, and each year helps hundreds of individuals lead lawabiding, productive lives.

Benefits Application Assistance The Single Stop program helps clients find out if they are eligible to receive public benefits available to people with low-incomes, including SNAP, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income/Social Security Disability Insurance, and other forms of public assistance.

Food & Nutrition Fortune offers hot meals and distributes fresh, locally grown produce to clients through partnerships with local farms. The program also offers cooking demonstrations and nutrition education workshops.

Housing Fortune’s Housing program empowers homeless, formerly incarcerated individuals and their families to build better futures through supportive and affordable housing. The program provides low-threshold access to supportive emergency, transitional and permanent housing at Fortune’s congregate facilities, the Fortune Academy (“the Castle”) and Castle Gardens, along with its Scatter Site Housing program.

trainings in Green Construction, Culinary Arts, Transportation and Commercial Drivers License (CDL). We also offer job placement assistance and retention services.

Education The Education program empowers students to achieve personal and professional goals, such as acquiring basic literacy skills, earning a High School Equivalency diploma, attending college, or preparing for a job.

Family Services The Family Services program helps connect clients with their loved ones by facilitating healthy parentchild relationships and addressing child support commitments.

Mental Health Treatment Fortune clients have access to a full spectrum of mental health services through our NYS Office of Mental Health (OMH)-licensed Better Living Center, which serves individuals with mental health and incarceration histories.

Substance Abuse Treatment Fortune’s NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS)-licensed outpatient substance use treatment services program empowers people with substance use histories to heal and recover from addiction.

Employment Services

Creative Arts

Fortune’s Employment Services program is designed to equip formerly incarcerated job seekers with skills necessary to obtain employment and thrive in the workplace. The program offers job readiness, transitional work, and sector-based skills

Fortune’s Arts program supports the educational, emotional, and cultural development of individuals impacted by the criminal justice system through creative writing, poetry, spoken word, video production, animation, visual arts, music, and theater.

THE DAVID ROTHENBERG CENTER FOR PUBLIC POLICY The David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy (DRCPP) was launched in 2007 to advance Fortune’s technical assistance, training, policy development, advocacy, research, and community education initiatives. DRCPP advocates for a fairer criminal justice system, promotes effective program models and needed support for people with criminal justice histories, and works to change the counterproductive laws and policies that create barriers to successful community reentry.






From family gatherings to first dates, shared meals are perfect complements to deep conversations, inside jokes, and unforgettable memories. Indeed, food is a key ingredient to relationship building. At Fortune, we know this well. Every day, we build community through the wholesome selection of foods we offer at our Long Island City, Queens and Harlem locations. Over 1,000 meals are served through our Food & Nutrition program each week. But like all good things, moderation and mindfulness are vital to keeping food a joy instead of a burden. That’s why we combine our weekly meal programs with hands-on nutrition education and cooking demonstrations, sharing simple ways of making healthy choices daily. And through our Farm Fresh program in West Harlem, locally grown fruits and vegetables, plus baked goods and spices, are available to all who stop by. I oversee these efforts, working with our staff to build holistic food experiences. My journey at Fortune started in 2014, when I came on board as a part-time Nutrition Educator. Concurrently, I worked as a clinical dietician at a health care services organization, helping individuals with mental health histories overcome barriers to healthy eating. But as Fortune’s Food & Nutrition program grew, so did my role. My experiences supporting individuals with mental health histories led me to dive deeper into the Fortune program, expanding it to serve more in our community, while being cognizant of the rich diversity within it. As a result, we now offer nutrition education programs in Spanish and English. We see

crowds of 300 at our cooking demonstrations each week, where individuals learn culturally familiar ways of crafting nourishing, fulfilling meals. Every participant walks away with creative recipes and free produce to replicate at home what was taught, making for fun surprises at family dinner. Mornings are fun, too, with the Hot Breakfast Bar (HBB), our offerings of readily available food to enjoy. At Castle Gardens (our supportive, permanent housing facility for low-income and formerly incarcerated individuals), HBB is a popular destination– it’s now available five days a week to meet community demand. Visitors at our Long Island City, Queens’s offices will enjoy readymade breakfasts in the near future, and we’re planning to make HBB a lunch destination, too. The services we provide teach an important lesson: That self-care is vital to productivity and success. We encourage our clients and community to approach food with a mindfulness that connects body and soul. Our future growth efforts point to this aim, including the creation of an herbal meditation garden that will support our Farm Stand program with self-produced goods, and provide staff with a place to reconnect, recharge, and regroup, beginning in Spring 2017. We also hope to launch a nutrition clinic in the future, giving clients and staff access to accurate and culturally competent nutrition counseling. When you eat well and are connected to nature, you feel better. Unfortunately, many justice-involved individuals experience food scarcity and health issues due to poor diet, making their paths to success even more of a challenge. But by addressing this head on, in diverse ways, we ensure that they’re equipped with one more ingredient to craft a fulfilling life. Bon Appétit! 



EYE ON FORTUNE FORTUNE FALL BENEFIT October 18, 2016 Nearly 300 supporters joined us to celebrate our 2016 Annual Fall Benefit. The evening was a tremendous success, raising $530,000 to support the critical services we provide to over 6,000 formerly incarcerated individuals each year. Attendees were inspired by honorees Betty P. Rauch, The Honorable Jonathan Lippman, and Daryl V. Atkinson, whose tireless efforts have supported successful reentry for formerly incarcerated people and championed a fairer justice system. Attendees were also incredibly moved by Fortune clients Stacy Royster and Damian Waldemar, who shared personal stories of dedication and perseverance. 

READY TO WORK JOB FAIR September 31, 2016


Our Employment Services program hosted its 1st annual job fair, where representatives from local business were on hand to meet with over 100 clients who attended. Industries represented included green construction, social services, food and culinary arts, nonprofit, and transportation. One client obtained employment through the fair, and many others secured interviews and key networking contacts. 

Our David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy (DRCPP) organized a housing conference that brought together 270 thought leaders, advocates, and policy makers. Excluded: A Dialogue on Safe, Supportive, and Affordable Housing for People with Justice System Involvement discussed barriers that puts housing out of reach for people with criminal records, and explored successful approaches to overcoming them. DRCPP organized the housing conference in collaboration with cohosts John Jay College of Criminal Justice Prisoner Reentry Institute, Corporation for Supportive Housing, and Supportive Housing Network of New York. Explore photos and insights from the conference: Visit the hashtag #ExcludedNoMore on Twitter. 





STEPHANIE GEIER Communications Intern


The Fortune Society changed my life by giving me the opportunity to develop a passion for theater. This year, I performed with our veterans acting troupe in collaboration with Theater of the Oppressed, and I have come to appreciate the role of art in achieving reform and raising awareness. This collaboration is part of our Reentry Veterans Initiative, which our David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy (DRCPP) created in 2014 to help justice-involved veterans through services and advocacy.

When I started interning at The Fortune Society, I knew this was the right place to be. From day one, I saw the dedication of Fortune’s staff to rebuilding the lives of justiceinvolved people, and became eager to contribute to this mission.

Although incarceration can tear families apart, my story shows that families impacted by the justice system can maintain their bonds despite years and miles of separation. During my 20-year sentence in upstate New York, my wife and children visited every three months. These visits gave me hope, and kept us going as a family.

During the performances, audience members proposed solutions to the real problems that we portrayed on stage. The resulting discussions were invigorating, and demonstrated how the arts can be a medium for change. Theater was also therapeutic to the formerly incarcerated performers, who were able to grow and express their struggles through the art form. I will always cherish these performances, and hope they inspire reform for justice-involved veterans in New York City. 

Over the past several months, I especially enjoyed interviewing clients and formerly incarcerated staff to capture their compelling stories for Fortune’s communication materials. Each interview was special and memorable. I was amazed at the abilities of clients to overcome barriers to reentry. Listening to clients describe their time in prison, the struggles they faced back in the community, and how Fortune helped them succeed showed me that justice-involved people are truly more than their worst deeds. It is important for people to see this humanity in a frequently stigmatized population. I am grateful that I was able to help share these inspiring stories. 


I vowed to be productive in prison so I could support them when I returned. I obtained a college degree, constantly read books, and mentored others. When I finally came home in 1993, my family was overjoyed, and welcomed me back with open arms. With their support, I was able to successfully reenter the community. I came to The Fortune Society for Treatment Services, which helped me overcome substance use and be a supportive grandfather to 15 grandchildren. After all these years, my family still supports me. I can now give back with gratitude, and keep our bonds strong.  6



After discharge, many veterans are left out in the cold. Instead of a system that streamlines transition from military service to civilian life, they undergo a lengthy screening process to assess their “eligibility” for services.

To a way people get to know each other, To a way relationships get to become stronger… A great friendship begins when people are willing to Take the seed of friendship and plant it, fertilize it Water it, nurture it, take all of the necessary steps to Make it grow and flourish… And in your eyes and heart, you will see that you Have produced the most beautiful flowers that Could have only come from your garden… The foundation for growing a strong friendship are Love, trust, honesty, loyalty, and an open mind and Heart…to have a friendship with someone very Special, is to live life as you always imagine it… Just as you always imagined it…and then we Work towards making it become a REALITY. To FRIENDSHIP.

This vetting process alienates veterans who don’t apply or are ineligible. So now, a myriad of social and mental health issues, including PTSD, go completely untreated, ultimately leading to incarceration. But the ray of hope is the Veteran’s Residential Treatment Program (VRTP) at Mid-State Correctional Facility and others like it. VRTP is an intensive inpatient program that covers issues pertinent to recovery and individual success with a focus on teamwork, self-improvement, and living as a community. The same dynamic of an intensive program can be implemented for mental health and general population incarcerated individuals, as well. These programs should foster and grow strong community ties to assist in the transition from prison to civilian life.

Shannon France Coxsackie Correctional Facility P.O. Box 999 Coxsackie, NY 12051

Respectfully submitted, Peter Fuentes Mid-State Correctional Facility P.O. BOX 2500 Marcy, NY 13403


We are extremely grateful to our funders who support our Food & Nutrition programming, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), NYS Department of Health (DOH), Capital One Bank, and Christ Church of Oyster Bay.


The employees at the Massachusetts Department of Corrections receive large pay increases and pensions, while producing one of the highest recidivism rates in the country. You are paying top dollar for bottom-rung results. There is a solution, but it involves a complete and total overhaul of the system. The decades of employed layabouts who feel people in prison are less than human must be sent packing. A new system, placed under the purview of Health and Human Services, not Public Safety, must be initiated with a Citizens Advisory Board with real accountability powers. You, the citizen taxpayer, are the boss in this failed business, and have the power to send these long-proven correctional pariahs packing. Your voice, through phone calls, emails, and letters to your Senator and Representative, can get the process started. Timothy J. Muise Massachusetts Correctional Institution, Shirley P.O. Box 1218 Shirley, MA 01464-1218



The United States has less than five percent of the world’s population, yet almost 25 percent of the world’s total prison population. This critical issue of mass incarceration needs to be recognized as a public health crisis that has led to increased hunger and poverty. Framing the issue in this context will reinforce the human and social cost of incarceration on individuals, families, and communities— and underscore the principle that hunger is a violation of human dignity and an obstacle to social, economic, and political progress. People with lower incomes are incarcerated at disproportionately higher rates. Not only are the median incomes of incarcerated people prior to incarceration lower than nonincarcerated people, but incarcerated people are dramatically concentrated at the lowest ends of the national income distribution spectrum (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2004, “Data Collection: Survey of Inmates in State Correctional Facilities”). Enforcing policies as currently applied facilitate a justice system that incarcerates people from the most resource-deprived communities struggling with substance use and mental health needs, diagnosed with chronic health problems, plus other physical and mental stress factors

that are present at much higher rates than in the population at large. These health problems are exacerbated by jail and prison conditions, which often include unclean conditions, dangerous overcrowding, inadequate nutrition, inconsistent or inadequate health care, lack of proper ventilation, violence, and prolonged isolation. Coincidentally, people in correctional facilities are the only group in the United States with a constitutional right to health care. But when people return to their communities after incarceration, many often do not have access to quality health services. It seems too obvious that declaring people ineligible for assistance to access food necessary for proper nutrition has negative implications on their health. But in several states, people who have been convicted of a drug-related felony and have served their sentences are banned or restricted from participating in SNAP (formerly food stamps) and TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). These bans also apply to the formerly incarcerated person’s entire household, including children. For a person with a chronic illness, going without food can lead to hospitalization, incurring a much higher cost than if that person was allowed the food assistance they need. A ban on accessing food assistance programs for people with justice system involvement and their families is antithetical to the overall objective of improving family and community safety. Better health outcomes depend


on giving people recently released from incarceration viable paths to healthy choices. According to The Pew Charitable Trusts (2010), people returning from incarceration statistically have decreased earning power, compounded with added debt from criminal justice financial obligations like fines, surcharges, restitution, and DNA fees. This combination, coupled with intense discrimination and limitations placed on certain career industries, make becoming financially independent immediately after incarceration an almost insurmountable hurdle. Unnecessary limitations on one’s ability to become financially stable so proper nutrition can become a life priority can be crippling for one’s health and wellness. Restraints on accessing safety-net programs like SNAP and TANF only further compound an already difficult, and at times desperate, situation. Public policymakers should adopt a public health approach to dealing with the United States’ hunger and mass incarceration epidemic. We encourage policymakers and leaders in the health and justice system to collaborate on a quest for greater access to quality health services, public safety, and social justice. Adopting less punitive approaches in favor of restorative justice ideals will incarcerate fewer people in our communities, enabling more to work, pursue educational opportunities, and remain connected with their families. 


FOOD & NUTRITION AT THE FORTUNE SOCIETY While New York City is home to thousands of supermarkets and bodegas, and hundreds of farmers’ markets, one in five (1.4 million) New Yorkers are at risk of hunger. Disparities in access to healthy and affordable food exist throughout the city, particularly in low-income communities. A thorough analysis of our clients by a team of students in NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service’s Capstone program demonstrated how incarceration impacted their ability to afford food, and resulted in chronic health issues. The analysis found that 60% of our clients face food insecurity, with 9

21% being very food insecure. While 41% said they have enough to eat, the nutritional quality of the foods consumed was inadequate, with 72% indicating that they ate fewer than three fruits and vegetables per day. We also learned that 49% could not afford to eat balanced meals and 31% did not eat because they could not afford to. The goal of our Food and Nutrition program is to address these disparities by providing healthy food to our clients, increase access to healthy fruits and vegetables, and improve eating habits through nutrition education.


DAILY HOT MEALS Access to healthy food is vital for productivity and success, but many of our clients face food insecurity. Fortunately, we see strong benefits in partaking in community meals as it relates to the successful reentry of our clients. As a result, we recently invested in a hot meal program to strengthen our traditional efforts. Our Hot Meal program has significantly reduced hunger, improved well-being, and brought staff and clients together. Every day, we serve hot meals to clients free of charge at our main service center in Long Island City, Queens and at our transitional housing

60% of Fortune clients face food insecurity

facility, The Fortune Academy, in Harlem. In 2015, we served nearly 30,000 meals through the program— that number continues to increase as more clients come through our doors each year. Once a month, we also host a Music Café at lunchtime, where everyone can gather to eat while listening to music performed by our very own staff and clients.

HEALTHY FOOD DISTRIBUTION, COOKING DEMOS & VEGGIE VOUCHERS Thanks to funding received through the NYS DOH Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP) since 2011, we distribute fresh produce to clients and community members. In partnership with local suppliers, including GrowNYC, Corbin Hill Farm, and Brooklyn Grange Farm, we distributed over 22,000 pounds of fresh, locally grown produce in 2015. And every Wednesday afternoon, individuals from West Harlem come to our housing facility, Castle Gardens, to pick up freshly grown produce – and sometimes fresh eggs, too! In partnership with Just Food, we also conduct on-site cooking demonstrations, teaching culturally familiar ways of using fresh fruits

31% of Fortune clients did not eat because they could not afford to

and vegetables. And we were awarded a grant through the USDA Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) Pilot program to launch our $25 food voucher program, Fortune Veggie Vouchers. These vouchers give Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients added purchasing power to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. We are also working with local farming partners in order for clients to use these vouchers to purchase regular farm shares in the future, which will increase food access and support local, sustainable agriculture.

NUTRITION EDUCATION WORKSHOPS We offer Nutrition Education workshops taught by in-house nutritionist Jaime McBeth, RDN. Ms. McBeth is a highly experienced dietitian and nutritionist who has worked in the field of nutrition education since 2007. Her workshops teach participants how to convert their favorite foods into healthier alternatives; select, store, and preserve fresh produce; prepare nutritious meals; sanitize kitchens; portion control; food safety; and grocery budgeting. We also offer specialized workshops for people with HIV/AIDS, and hope to soon provide individual dietary sessions for clients with other underlining health issues.



FORTUNE FRESH FARM STAND, HOT BREAKFAST BAR, JUICE & SMOOTHIE STAND Now in its fifth year, Capital One Bank has funded our Fortune Fresh Farm Stand. Every week during the summer and fall, we sell locally grown and culturally relevant spices, like cilantro, basil, dill, and mint, along with beans, bread, and iced drinks. We have also launched a Hot Breakfast Bar at Castle Gardens, where we serve breakfast sandwiches that workers prepare on-site. The Hot Breakfast Bar (HBB) serves our growing staff base in Harlem, and has received positive feedback from clients and the community at large. We have also maintained a Juice Bar and Smoothie Stand in our Harlem and Long Island City, Queens locations, offering healthy, affordable options like freshly


squeezed fruit juices and smoothies to the community. Our clients manage the day-to-day operations of these stands, giving them opportunities to sharpen their entrepreneurial skills.

URBAN COMMUNITY GARDENS Thanks to support from Christ Church of Oyster Bay, we created a Sky Garden on the rooftop of Castle Gardens. Over the past few years, residents have cultivated 17 planter boxes, several ground planters and beds, and a shelved, vertical garden unit. And since 2012, we have grown fresh herbs, and small fruits and vegetables, including basil, dill, mint, beans, cherry tomatoes, and strawberries, that are used in cooking demonstrations, nutrition workshops, and for creating our new Fortunebranded sofrito business. Every spring, the Sky Garden is awash in rainbowFORTUNESOCIETY.ORG

colored tulips and other perennials. We also receive free daffodil bulbs each year through New Yorkers for Parks Daffodil Project, adding a bright pop of yellow and white to the garden. And just this year, we launched a new Herbal Meditation Garden on an outdoor patio space at our Long Island City, Queens location. FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT FORTUNE’S FOOD & NUTRITION SERVICES, please contact Jaime McBeth at, or call 646-937-5357. ď Ž


I developed a passion for the culinary arts at a young age, when my mother used to teach my sister and me how to cook. My entire family has always loved cooking— you could say that I inherited my talent from them. I was incarcerated at the age of 16, and continued to develop this passion by working in the kitchens and serving food to other incarcerated individuals in prison. I started in the mess hall as a line worker and dishwasher, and was then put in charge of chopping vegetables. I completed Culinary Arts training while incarcerated, and soon became head chef. During my fourteen-year sentence, I was moved between several different prisons, but cooking helped me stay focused. It kept me preoccupied and productive. I returned to my family upon release in 2008. My community was welcoming and supportive, but I still faced the enormous barrier of finding employment. Because I was incarcerated as a teenager, I had no work experience to put on my resume. It was also difficult to maintain a job while following curfew during my parole. My situation became incredibly frustrating because “I am employers kept letting me go.

saw my passion for cooking and asked me to run the Breakfast Bar, which serves clients living at Castle Gardens, their supportive housing unit in West Harlem. I’ve been running the Breakfast Bar and serving residents there ever since. Four days a week, I arrive early in the morning to unpack ingredients, set up the carts I use for cooking, and prepare for the day.

The Breakfast Bar has been very successful, and I hope it will continue to expand to serve more clients, inspiring their own home meal preparations. I am grateful that Fortune provides opportunities for me to succeed. I’m now inspired to go deeper into the Culinary Arts industry. One day, I hope to own a restaurant.

grateful that Fortune provides opportunities for me to succeed. I’m now inspired to go deeper into the Culinary Arts industry. One day, I hope to own a restaurant.”

Hoping to find sustainable job opportunities, I came to The Fortune Society in 2013 for their Employment Services program. Here, I learned valuable interviewing techniques and completed the Culinary Arts program. I applied to be a chef for Fortune’s Food and Nutrition program. The head of the program

I have always used cooking as a tool to make others smile. It’s fulfilling to provide clients with wholesome, delicious meals, made only with fresh ingredients, to start the day.


Despite my past mistakes, I cherish my life and would not trade it for anything. Fortune gave me the chance to start over. I use my story to encourage other formerly incarcerated people to come here. I am proud to use my passion for cooking to help clients rebuild their lives, just like Fortune did for me. 





fully take advantage of it. In prison, there is a way of thinking that can stick with you, even after you are released. Fortune helps us get unstuck. There’s an abundance of resources here to help us do that, including mental health services through the Better Living Center, substance use treatment and the Employment Services program. Those who don’t utilize those resources to their maximum potential experience a loss, while those who do reap the benefits of their commitment.

Spending 20 years incarcerated, like I was, is challenging, to say the least. You want to get out but can’t. In my experience, the best thing to do is focus on productive things that will help you endure, while constantly being watchful of your surroundings. So, while I was incarcerated, I worked in places like the prison’s food services program, as “Fortune gives formerly well as flooring, tiling incarcerated people like and carpentry programs. Placing my energy in me a chance to thrive work that benefited my ... Fortune helps us get wellbeing helped me unstuck.” survive. Adjusting to the community took time after I was released in 2007. But I left prison with a clear purpose: I wanted to grow old, be respectful, stay humble, save as much as I can, and enjoy the rest of my life. I went after these goals fervently, and worked hard to stay focused on them. I take life seriously now— this time around, it’s too important to play with.

Eight years since I found a new chance at living after incarceration, I don’t forget where I come from. I use my past experience as fuel for my current journey, and resist negative energy and thoughts that try to pull me back to what I’ve already overcome. I like to remind others: You’ve got to be the conductor of your train, and conduct it well. Others may try to derail you. Watch out for that, and don’t let it distract you. Today, it is no longer distracting me. 

My sisters told me about The Fortune Society. I visited their Long Island City offices, and was soon hired as a maintenance man by Senior Vice President Stanley Richards. As a way of giving back, I also volunteer with Fortune’s Food and Nutrition program, and with Castle Gardens, where I reside. I enjoy passing out food and taking clients to their new homes– these are fulfilling experiences for me. If I wasn’t introduced to The Fortune Society, my life’s experiences would be considerably different. Fortune gives formerly incarcerated people like me a chance to thrive; it’s up to us to VOLUME XLIX • DECEMBER 2016

This Side of Freedom: Life after Clemency is a newly released book that is being distributed FREE to all prison libraries across the United States.


his book is a great tool to help prisoners understand the issues they face when reentering society. It is a riveting, compelling tale about the life of activist, writer and artist Anthony Papa. He tells firsthand of his experience of returning home after serving a 15-to-life sentenced under the Rockefeller Drug Laws of New York State. Papa says the freedom he fought so hard to get, smacked him swiftly in the face and overpowered him. He struggled with his freedom and goes through heart-wrenching trials and tribulations as he seeks to end the war on drugs and save those he left behind. Along the way he meets an array of individuals from famous movie stars to politicians and the very rich, enlisting their help in doing away with mass incarceration and draconian sentencing laws that have destroyed America’s criminal justice system.

A FREE study guide is also available and found on its Amazon link. Please tell your prison librarian you want to have the book in your prison library. Contact: The Drug Policy Alliance Prison Library Project, 131 West 33rd Street, NY, NY 10001, 15th Floor,



updated our six-week culinary arts training program to include instructions on how to successfully navigate the customer-facing components of a restaurant. Called “front of house” in the industry, Paul Irving, a professional who has worked in the field for over a decade, provides hands-on workshops on table setting, proper serving techniques, and effective workflow. Knowing this aspect of the business develops a deeper understanding of a restaurant’s image and environment, allowing our clients to become more versatile workers.

The New York City food service industry has been changing and growing dramatically over the last few years. The city is seeing a huge flight from suburban dwellers back into urban areas, which is creating a new, predominantly middle class population. These changes are contributing to a rise in entrepreneurs, a resurgence of the city’s bar and restaurant scene, and an overall increase in a diverse array of institutions “We are preparing that are hungry for talented our students to love, and eager cooks.

Additionally, one of the current trends in the city’s food industry is the demand know, and grow in for healthy and fresh foods. According to the National their culinary careers. Because of this, employers seek people who have a good Restaurant Association, in understanding of nutrition, 2015, there were 45,681 and a diverse exposure to different fruits, eating and drinking locations in New York. vegetables, and the availability of locally Projected sales for 2016 amounted to $42.5 grown foods. This can be a challenge for lowbillion. In addition, as of 2016, food and income populations that live in food deserts restaurant jobs constituted 9% of New York and receive limited education of nutrition. state employment. This number is expected to Unfortunately, these are communities that rise by 7.2% in ten years, adding an additional most of our clients reside in. Acknowledging 59,200 jobs. this disadvantage, we have recently added a more intensive nutrition section to our culinary We at The Fortune Society are tapping into this program. Nutrition Educator, and Food and thriving market, providing our graduates with Nutrition Program Manager Jaime McBeth hands-on training and food handling licenses now gives interactive lessons on nutrition and that give them advantages at obtaining jobs. food labels. Additionally, class instructor Chef The challenge our chefs now face is not in their Lorne Feldman, Adjunct Lecturer from CUNY abilities to cook, but rather their knowledge Kingsborough Community College, reinforces of the wider world of food. Many specialized the importance of sodium and cholesterol restaurants are interested in hiring people who management while cooking. understand the basics of good nutrition, specialty We continue to strive for diverse knowledge and diets, or healthy eating. Other restaurants want exposure for our students. From visiting rooftop a versatile staff with a good understanding of gardens, community farmers markets, and all aspects of the dining experience, from the diverse kitchen settings, to providing training kitchen where food is prepared to the tables beyond the kitchen and certification test, we are where customers are seated. preparing our students to love, know, and grow Responding to this need, we have recently in their culinary careers. 






Five days a week at The Fortune Society, we serve hot meals in Long Island City, Queens to people coming home from prison. The second floor community room is transformed into a comfortable dining hall, with small tables seating two, four, or six people. From noon until 1 p.m., the room is filled with men and women eating and talking in a comfortable, casual environment. It closely resembles a college student union. The atmosphere– as well as the


menu– is carefully planned. We are aware that the men and women who are participants at Fortune were often eating three meals a day in the mess halls of various jails and prisons. Prison food is famous for lacking nutrition, and is not culturally relevant. It is virtually impossible to cook for 500 or 1,000 people without sacrificing taste and nutrition. Prison meals have to be cooked and served quickly, with a budget that determines the quality of food served. Most prison mess halls can be recognized by two distinct qualities. One is that individuals must consume their food quickly so the hall can


accommodate the large numbers of people waiting on line. One man told me, “After 16 years in prison, I had to learn to eat slowly.” Proper digestion is a pathway to good health, and it begins with properly chewing food. Mothers and grandmothers remind kids often to chew their food— every morsel— slowly. They know what they are talking about. Secondly, prison mess halls are the antithesis of sociability. Most civilians who dine in restaurants or at home take for granted that meal time is for talking in a supportive atmosphere. Often, in prison, the diners are in a place where personal and group rivalries surface,

creating tension, a factor which also has a slow and negative impact on the health of individuals.

if you treat somebody like a human being, they’ll act like a human being, and if you treat them like a wild animal, that’s how they’ll respond.”

clients have positive learning experiences to share during the meal. This dining setting is new to many, and not arrived at easily. It’s always easy to recognize who has been at Fortune for two weeks and others, looking at ease, who have been a part of the program for three or four months.



At Fortune, there is a keen awareness that many of the individuals enjoying An old timer who had joined our the noontime “hot” meals were conversation added “Listen: On consuming prison food in a negative Rikers, or on lots of joints for that atmosphere for 15, 20, or 30 years. matter, you are either the predator It is frequently a slow process to or the prey.” In such a predatory Sam Rivera, a client, says “The crime learn how to eat like a is what I did. It’s not free person. Recently, who I am.” In a subtle “When they come together to eat, participants one of the men said way, when you sit to me, “See those two have positive learning experiences to share and eat a good meal guys in line? I did time during the meal. This dining setting is new around people who are with them, and they supportive, it’s a step to many, and not arrived at easily.” were aggressive and in the right direction. dangerous.” I watched Still, the real work for the two guys he was talking about for environment, the mere facial display change has to be performed by each a while, then said “Right now, they of a man’s aggression is his best and every individual who first walks look like a couple of men waiting defense. At Fortune, he doesn’t have through the door.  to enjoy a meal. They don’t seem to show that. He can just get his food very aggressive or dangerous. What and go back to his class or group. happened?” My friend looked for When they come together to eat, a minute, then responded, “I guess




TRUE OR FALSE? Free Black farmers once operated 14% of the nation’s farms. They now operate less than 2%.

At Soul Fire Farm in Grafton, New York, we are attempting to meet a challenge presented to us by Curtis Hayes Muhammad, the veteran civil rights activist. He once said, “Recognize that land and food have been used as a weapon to keep black people oppressed. Recognize also that land and food are essential to liberation for black people.” Our young Black-Jewish family was living in a neighborhood in Albany classified as a “food desert” by the federal government. This meant that despite our deep commitment to feeding our children fresh food, it was almost impossible to find healthy produce. We decided to create a farm that would feed our neighbors and be a center for food justice organizing. In 2011, after years of hard work, Soul Fire Farm was born. We asked ourselves how we could stand on the shoulders of our elders who selflessly gave their land, leadership, and resources for the cause of justice. Here are some actions we took: In the spirit of Ujamaa, cooperative economics, we created a farm-share program that delivers fresh vegetables to the doorsteps of approximately 80 families every week in “food desert” neighborhoods. To keep our children safe from the criminal justice system, we created an alternative to incarceration program that trains court-adjudicated youth in farming and cooking skills. To increase the number of farmers of color, we created the Black and Latino Farmers Immersion, which increases skills and offers strategies for making a living on the land. We participate in the Victory Bus Project, which provides transportation for families to visit their loved ones in correctional facilities in upstate New York. To get a ticket on the bus, families purchase an affordable package of fresh food from farms.

TRUE OR FALSE? Black farmers were the backbone of the Civil Rights Movement. TRUE OR FALSE? Black, Latino, and Indigenous people are much more likely to die from poor nutrition than gun violence. TRUE OR FALSE? As the farming economy declined in upstate New York, the private prison industry grew to take its place. TRUE OR FALSE? Black, Latino, and Indigenous people are more likely to live in “food desert” neighborhoods, where it is difficult to find affordable, healthy food than it is for white people. TRUE OR FALSE? The system of U.S. corporate capitalism is designed to keep Black, Latino, and Indigenous people off the land, without access to good food— and locked behind bars. ALL OF THESE STATEMENTS ARE TRUE. It can be difficult to sustain hope when we think about how many people of color are affected by the criminal justice system. When our ancestral mothers stood on the shores of Africa’s Gold Coast, preparing to board transatlantic slave ships, they chose to braid seeds of okra and rice in their children’s hair. They believed in a future of planting and harvesting. If they could maintain hope in the face of injustice, we can, too.  Learn more about Soul Fire Farm: Website: Facebook: /Soul-Fire-Farm-156795274335073/ And learn more about the Victory Bus Project, plus facts on racism in the food system: pdf




Just blocks away from The Fortune Society’s Long Island City office lies an urban oasis called Smiling Hogshead Ranch. It is a community-run, urban farm collective that plants, maintains, prepares, and gathers to eat food from the garden together. In addition to growing healthy food, the ranchers offer free workshops on topics ranging from composting and growing edible mushrooms to season extension and tool maintenance. Smiling Hogshead Ranch is also a social space that hosts a variety of events, such as fundraisers for other non-profit organizations, yoga in the garden, school tours, and arts and cultural events. Smiling Hogshead Ranch was founded in 2011 on MTA property as a community project based on “guerrilla gardening.” In 2012, however, the MTA discovered what we were up to. Instead of hiding our actions, we invited others to join our urban agricultural pursuits. However, as we expanded, it became apparent that some communities, including school children, formerly incarcerated individuals, and people of color, were not comfortable participating because we were technically trespassing when we gardened. Through a dialogue with Fortune and other organizations, the founding members of the Ranch decided to formalize the group by establishing a non-profit organization, purchasing insurance, and entering into a garden license agreement with the MTA. The agreement was signed in 2013, and we are now an official NYC community garden. That same year, Fortune partnered with Smiling Hogshead Ranch to enrich the coursework within Fortune’s environmental remediation job training program. Members of the Ranch have led tours of the garden, and educated Fortune clients about composting and different forms of soil remediation. We take soil samples, send them


to labs for testing, and then have the students analyze the results. As a result, we have had invigorating discussions about a range of topics, such as protection from potential soil toxins. Our garden and programs have expanded greatly since our early days, and we are excited to continue enriching Fortune’s environmental remediation training program in the future.  Learn more about Smiling Hogshead Ranch: Website: Facebook: @SmilingHogsheadRanch



In 2010, Corbin Hill Food Project opened its doors with the mission to serve those who needed food security the most. Born out of the Corbin Hill Road Farm, the project was founded by 11 individuals who provided the initial equity needed, 72% of whom were Black and Latinx, and 51% of whom were women. During the 2015 growing season, Corbin Hill distributed 89,000 shares, with 64% going to those making less than 200% of the poverty level. As a socially driven enterprise, Corbin Hill continues to adhere to its values of racial equality, sovereignty, and community control as it now seeks a paradigm shift in how to get food to those who need it most. Corbin Hill’s novel ideas on how to serve low-income communities and communities of color are considered bold innovations of thought leadership. Corbin Hill has introduced a range of untested concepts that challenge existing food distribution assumptions that have dominated the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) movement and do not address the needs of low-income communities. One critical practice was accepting all forms of payment, including SNAP/EBT for those living on assistance programs, recognizing that a large part of access is affordability and financial flexibility. The payment options were not the only breaks from the CSA model norm: giving members the ability to pay one week in advance (as opposed to paying upfront for the whole season); allowing members to put shares on hold, change their share size or pick-up site; and allowing members to join at any point during the season have all been changes to the model. Additionally, Corbin Hill reduces the risk of share shortages due to drought or crop failing by working with an aggregate network of regional farms, instead of one or two farms as is the norm for other traditional CSA programs. With a variety of farms to source produce from, Corbin Hill mitigates the risk of their shareholders not receiving food on any given week. And in 2011, Corbin Hill introduced a winter share, on the premise that produce must have year-round availability. All of these practices have now been accepted as standard

for places that serve both low-income and middle class communities. Also now widely adopted is the recognition of the importance of community partners as central to the distribution of food to low-income communities. Since the founding of Corbin Hill, we have closely partnered with The Fortune Society. In fact, Fortune’s transitional housing unit, Castle Gardens, was one of our first distribution sites in Harlem to host a Farm Share open to an entire community. The Food and Nutrition program at Fortune has also partnered with our Community Health Partners Program, which has allowed Fortune to provide food to its residents through special cooking demonstrations. Corbin Hill is proud to partner with Fortune. Together, we share the values of food access and affordability as a right for all.  Learn more about the Corbin Hill Food Project: Website: Facebook: @CorbinHillFoodProject




Statistics show that food insecurity, or the inability to access healthy and affordable foods, disproportionately affects low-income individuals and people of color, leading to poor health and behavioral outcomes. Every New Yorker, regardless of race, class, gender, and record of arrest or criminal conviction, deserves access to nutritious foods. My office is working towards eliminating food insecurity among all individuals and families living in New York City. Our top priorities are making sure that all New Yorkers have enough nutritious food to eat, promoting access to healthy food, encouraging consumption of a well-balanced diet, and working with public and private partners to build a more sustainable, just food system. One of our primary areas of work is supporting City agencies and nonprofit organizations such as The Fortune Society in buying and serving nutritious, high-quality food. New York City was the first major city in the country to set nutrition standards for all foods purchased by the City. This includes serving only healthier beverages, two servings of fruits and vegetables for lunch and dinner, and lowering salt content in meals. New York City agencies serve over 245 million meals and snacks per year, with approximately 35,000 served in Department of Correction facilities each day. These meals, including cafeteria and commissary foods, must meet the food standards. Aside from food served in institutions, we work with many City agencies and collaborate with community organizations to support healthy food environments for all New Yorkers. We know there are disparities in the kinds of foods that people can access or afford, and we are working to improve this with a number of initiatives. This includes supporting community gardens, expanding farmers markets, providing nutrition education and cooking classes, connecting New Yorkers to the nutrition assistance that they are eligible for, and providing healthy shopping incentives. We also work


Credit: with businesses to help establish supermarkets in high-need communities. The ability to buy and eat healthy foods positively impacts nearly every aspect of a person’s life. Eating well is directly related to improved physical and mental health, emotional well-being, and social connection. Thus, Fortune’s programs in urban gardening, food enterprise, and healthy eating are crucial, and I am pleased that Fortune is committed to nutrition in its efforts to rebuild the lives of formerly incarcerated people.  Learn more about the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy: Website: Twitter: @nycfood And to find a food pantry near you, or get help enrolling in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), please visit



The Queens Economic Development Corporation is a non-profit organization whose mission is to create and retain jobs. Through our programs, we strive to help immigrants, women, minorities, and people of low and moderate income achieve their entrepreneurial dreams. We have established a number of successful programs to meet this goal. In 2011, we opened a commercial kitchen incubator. Another program of ours, The Entrepreneur Space, has helped over 500 clients seeking to start food-based businesses. In addition to the fully-outfitted kitchen, we offer business counseling and technical assistance to our clients. Over the years, we have helped over 200 business expand to permanent spaces and work with private companies that manufacture food products at large scales. Shortly after opening, we initially met with The Fortune Society to build a commercial kitchen in their space, in order to provide a culinary training program for their clients. But upon seeing our facility, it made sense to run the training program at The Entrepreneur Space because we had the kitchen facility and access to instructors. Most importantly, we also offered internships to graduates of the program. Over the past five years, we have hosted multiple cohorts with hundreds of Fortune clients successfully trained. Culinary education that leads to a food

handling license can be excellent training for Fortune clients seeking career options. Learning skills for entry into the food industry can propel one to move ahead. In addition, there are many employment options in the food industry, and the skills needed to start a career in it are not onerous for those with limited educational backgrounds. Over the years, Fortune clients have interned with many of our Entrepreneur Space clients. Additionally, we have hired some graduates to work at The Entrepreneur Space as Client Assistants, who work with our business start-up clients and assist in maintaining the facility. This experience helps them grow, and can lead to jobs in both the private and public sector. I have had the privilege of addressing the graduates of the last few cohorts. It was encouraging to see how the cohorts truly become a family during


their training period. I usually have the chance to observe them during the training period in the kitchen, too, and it is interesting to see how they learn by working together. But it is the graduations that are always exceptional. For some, it marks the first time they completed a training program. Others are proud because they understand new skills that will give them options they did not have before. Whatever their motivations and achievements, graduation is always a happy occasion and an important milestone in each of their lives. We highly value our partnership with Fortune, and are honored to play a role in helping formerly incarcerated people find employment.  Learn more about The Queens Economic Development Corporation: Website: Facebook: @queensedc


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