Illinois Inmates Grow Veggies For Soup Kitchens And Top Chefs

09/13/2010 01:44 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Select inmates at Cook County Jail, Ill., are giving back to the community and learning a new skill, after participating in gardening program in addition to their normal sentencing, WGNTV reports.

The Sheriff's Garden Program, which started 17 years ago, teaches lower-risk offender volunteers how to plant, water, weed and pick vegetables that are given back to local food banks and churches.

Sheriff Tom Dart has noticed positive improvements to the inmates overall attitude, WGNTV reports.

"They'll freely tell you this is the first time they've ever started out to do something and completed it. And so for them there's this level of achievement that we take for granted that they've never had before that is really neat to see."

All those who complete the program will earn a master gardener's certificate from the University of Illinois extension program and participate in a graduation ceremony at the end of the summer.

Charlie Trotter, one of Chicago's top chefs, has used vegetables grown by Cook County inmates in his restaurant and is enthusiastic about the program continuing.

"We give this the official Charlie Trotters good housekeeping seal of approval. And, if it's good enough for us to serve, it better be good enough for you to eat."