A prison program funded partly by recycling waste produced at Ohio State football games is helping pay for inmates to raise trout to feed penguins, polar bears and otters at the Columbus Zoo.
The rainbow trout farm that opened Wednesday at the Southeastern Correctional Complex in Lancaster will provide about 300 pounds of frozen trout a month for the zoo's dozen-plus penguins. Inmates also will provide about 100 pounds of trout a month for the zoo's polar bears, brown bears and otters.
The farm is being paid for, in part, with proceeds from a prison recycling-sorting program, which takes in waste from Ohio State's massive stadium, among other sources.
The trout, to be flash frozen at the prison, will replace fish the zoo currently gets from Idaho. The prison partnership calls for smaller trout, from 4 inches to 6 inches long, which is closer to what penguins prefer, said zoo spokeswoman Patty Peters.
The prison eventually hopes to raise bigger trout for the bears and to provide them live to the animals. The prison also hopes to expand the trout program to other Ohio zoos.
The fish are being raised in two long water-filled troughs in a warehouse.
The prison's recycling program earned about $33,000 just in the last six months, said warden Sheri Duffey. The trout program's costs haven't been determined, she said.
"We like to establish community partnerships, and we love to find projects for the offenders in here that are meaningful and that potentially could lead to a job to them when they're released," Duffey said.
Ohio State has a zero waste policy for home football games, meaning it diverts nine of every 10 pounds of game-day waste from landfills by recycling or composting. The Nebraska game in October alone produced 3,246 pounds of cardboard, 1,752 pounds of plastic bottles and 78 pounds of chip bags.
Animal projects aren't uncommon in Ohio prisons.
Inmates at the Southeastern prison also raise bees for honey distributed to a local food bank. Inmates in Lorain and the Ohio women's prison in Marysville also raise bees.
At Marion Correctional Institution, inmates run a wildlife rescue program where prisoners care for squirrels, birds, opossums, raccoons, groundhogs and other animals.
Inmates at several prisons train abandoned dogs for adoption or as seeing eye companions or for people with hearing problems.