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Aramark to Provide Heart-Healthy Meals at San Francisco Jail

The City of San Francisco negotiated a new contract with its food vendor, Aramark Correction Services, to provide a “heart-healthy menu” for prisoners at the San Francisco County Jail (SFCJ). The new fare, hopefully, will diminish the need for prisoners to prepare meals from the snack food laden jail commissary.

Aramark has been providing meals for those incarcerated at SFCJ since 1996. The new five-year contract is worth $19.7 million. On average, 5,743 meals are served at SFCJ daily, which amounts to about 3.8 meals per prisoner daily. Some prisoners receive “double rations” for performing clean-up or maintenance tasks.

Under the new contract, each meal will cost an average $1.56 or $3.3 million annually for prisoners. Staff meals, by contrast, cost $3.24 each on average, totaling $622,388 annually.

The new menu is aimed at following San Francisco’s penchant for healthy foods and locally grown foods. “We implemented a healthy-heart menu to help combat some of the inmate obesity issues that we’ve been seeing due to an overly caloric meal combined with a sedentary lifestyle,” said Bree Mawhorter, chief financial officer of the San Francisco County Sheriff’s Office (SFCSO).

Jail officials and prisoners agree that “jail food sucks.” Prisoners call the diet “S.O.S.- Same Old Shit,” says SFCJ prisoner Tyrone McFall. “Here the S.O.S. be watery. Seems that here the ground beef, the lunchmeat they serve us, they throw it into a blender and serve us like they serve the animals in exotic cages.”

To get something more appetizing and filling when they want to eat, SFCJ prisoners make what they term “spreads” from items out of the commissary.

 “Spreading” is “putting something together, not too much of nothing, couple of Top Ramens, couple of bags of chips, couple of beef sticks,” said SFCJ prisoner Brennan Owens.  “I pretty much crush everything together; throw it in one bag, a few cups of hot water, and bam. I got my Top Ramen special.”

Other prisoners group together to make spreads, which combine commissary items with some items from the jail issued food. They also create deserts on an often elaborate level. The downfall is these types of meals are unhealthy. “They’ll put fat on you,” said SFCJ prisoner Kermit Sanders. “If you are not working out and you eat spreads, you will gain weight.”

 “Increasing the quantity and nutritious value of the food served in the jails is an ongoing and important issue” for San Francisco Sheriff Russ Mirkarimi, said SFCSO spokeswoman Susan Fahey. “Looking to the future, the sheriff has encouraged locally based, large organizations to consider offering the service of providing food to the jail system.”

Sources: San Francisco Examiner; University of California Press; Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture

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