3 ways correctional facilities are improving foodservice
The pressure is on for foodservice operators in the corrections industry to succeed on razor-thin margins. Dietary and religious restrictions among inmates – not to mention food allergies – raise the stakes considerably. Fortunately, new trends and innovations in the area of equipment and supplies can help by reducing labor costs, food waste, energy, gas and water usage, and more.
Minimizing waste with portion control
While food waste can be a big hit to large operations, one emerging trend among correctional facilities to control costs is minimizing waste through portion control.
Rather than contend with gallons of leftovers and waste created by cooking from scratch on site, many facilities are now operating off-site cook-chill facilities. There, staff prepare food in 200-gallon batches, then pump it into 2-gallon bags for freezing before shipping it to each prison for reheating – making portion control much easier.
From food composting to disposal equipment that reduce the volume of food waste (pulpers, dehydrators and digesters), the options to cut costs through better waste handling are numerous. And while the upfront cost of some of these systems may be high, your return on investment will be even higher – allowing you to essentially make your money back in food disposal and cost savings.
Another way to fight food waste is through equipment capable of keeping ingredients fresh. Clear storage bins and an efficient labeling system – which allow for easier visibility to monitor freshness – help you take stock of your ingredients and monitor their integrity and freshness. Specialty storage bins – such as those with drainage to wick away moisture from fruits and veggies – also are available.
Cost-effective solutions for health issues
Inmate health (physical and mental) is under the microscope, but there are other reasons for corrections foodservice operators to up their healthy food game – namely cost savings. Healthcare costs for prisoners are astronomical, and better food could be a solution. What’s more, better food can reduce tension, creating a calmer, more controlled environment for inmates and corrections employees.
Many corrections facilities have picked up on this, and as a result, menu simplifications are gaining popularity (and it’s not hard to see why). A staggering 74% of prisoners in state and federal prisoners are overweight, obese or morbidly obese, reports the Bureau of Justice statistics. Plus, research shows a prisoner’s BMI increases with each prison stay for both males and females.
With healthier options in mind, an increasing number of facilities have begun offering simplified diet plans that combine more than one dietary restriction, such as “cardiovascular” (low fat, cholesterol, and sodium), “cardiac/diabetic,” or heart-healthy main population menus with regulated carbohydrates.
When it comes to taking a proactive approach to cutting costs, menu simplification can go a long way in saving money over the long term – and it’s certainly possible to simplify while still providing options for a wide variety of dietary, nutritional and religious restrictions. For example, color-coded equipment and supplies can help operators stay organized and manage allergen risks. Additional prep stations and more prep equipment is another way to keep diners safe and adhere to other standards (kosher, etc.).
Opting for easy-to-use, ultra-secure equipment
The equipment used in corrections facilities doesn’t just have to be durable and cost-efficient – it has to be secure and easy enough for inmates to use. Machines that are relatively easy to learn and use are an important quality in environments where there isn’t always the opportunity for extended training, and labor may cycle through quickly.
And to help ensure a smoother, lower-stress process for those overseeing these operations, there are ultra-secure versions of industrial kitchen equipment, including:
- Tamper-proof screws: Only a special tool provided with the equipment can remove these screws
- All-welded construction: Welded joints and hinges support more weight and provide extra durability
- Heavy-duty stainless steel: Thicker, stronger steel than standard equipment stands up to the challenges of the toughest environments
- Solid or mesh covers: These covers can be put over lights, fans or control panels to prevent tampering
- Flanged legs: These can be bolted to the floor, making them extremely difficult to tamper with or remove
- Locks: Locks ensure access to critical components is limited