In a Prison a Sunflower Blooms

Visiting the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville, Oregon, is a study in contrasts. As we wind our way up the long driveway to the women’s prison, there is the expected: barbed wire, fences, metal detectors and watchful guards. But past the minimum security check-in, we step into an inner courtyard bright with life—sunflowers and tomatoes, Oregon silverspot butterflies dance among the flowers. Groups of women gather, immersed in conversation as if it were a college campus.

Soon, a dozen inmates sit in rapt attention as Julie Briley, ND (’11), of NCNM’s Food as Medicine Institute, and students Shannon Curtis and Mallory Aye deliver a Food as Medicine Everyday class in the prison’s industrial kitchen. The women learn nutrition and cooking tips to bring home with them upon their imminent release.

Reviewing labels and preparing a simple meal of kale chips, avocado, tomato, cilantro, brown rice and refried beans—the class revels in the break from regimented routine. One woman said simply: “Oh my gosh, this is so awesome. I look forward to this class every week!”