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Colorado Prison Culinary Program Caters to Local Community

Prisoners at Colorado’s Sterling Correctional Facility (SCF) are catering local events as part of a culinary training program at the prison. Their cuisine has such a fine reputation that in March 2011 students at one high school asked SCF to cater their prom.

Community groups seeking an affordable, quality caterer regularly turn to the prisoners at SCF. “It’s just quite common around here,” said Darcy Garretson, the superintendent and principal at Haxtun High School. “It’s kind of surprised me that it’s drawn attention. I’m just thinking, wow, a lot of community groups in town use them. It’s just not that unusual.”

Many of the students had already sampled prison-catered meals through banquets for the National Honor Society. According to Garretson, the prisoners also make tasty cinnamon rolls that are provided at town functions.

The culinary program has benefited both prisoners and the community that surrounds SCF. Prisoners are exposed to training and experience that can translate into a career in the food industry, while the community is able to cater events at lower cost.

“In a small town like what we are, there’s not a lot of catering services,” said Jeff Plumb, an agricultural teacher at the high school who helped organize the prom. “So they’re one of the options that a lot of communities use, not just Haxtun.”

The order to cater the prom called for serving about 110 meals, including the 40 students and their guests who were expected to attend the event. Each meal costs $8.00 and includes chicken alfredo, a side of vegetables or salad, and cheesecake.

The food is reportedly good, too. “That’s why we use them,” Plumb said. “Several of the students have had the chicken alfredo before through them and they really liked it. They said, ‘We ought to do it again.’”

The prom is a big event in Haxtun. “Sometimes we get 600 or 700 people,” said Garretson, “in a town of 600 ... come up to see the kids all dressed up.” The prisoners who prepared the food, however, didn’t get to attend; a student’s father who works as a guard at SCF delivered the meals from the prison to the prom.


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