Phillipa Stephens, Toni Bidois from St Vinnies and Rebecca Culver from Just Zilch.Prisoners in Manawatu Prison are learning skills to be resourceful and self-sufficient through initiatives that are giving back to the local community.

Prisoners have made around 200 recycled t-shirt bags that are shared between charity shop St Vinnies and drop in food bank Just Zilch in Palmerston North.

The t-shirts were donated to the prison by St Vinnies as they weren’t suitable for resale. A few snips and knots later and the t-shirt is transformed into a recyclable shopping bag. St Vinnies will use the bags when people make purchases in place of plastic shopping bags, and Just Zilch will use them when people drop in for food parcels.

The prison’s gardens regularly supply Just Zilch with fresh vegies, and today a basket brimming with broccoli and cauliflower was dropped off along with the t-shirt bags.

“The men enjoy doing something positive for the local community”, says Manawatu Prison Volunteer Co-coordinator Phillipa Stephens.

Manawatu Prison's vege garden.“They’re picking up new skills that they can take back to their families on release.  If you can grow some veges you can feed your family.  And being resourceful and finding another use for something can help save money.  It’s a good initiative that benefits a lot of people.”