Magazine article Corrections Forum

What's Hot in Food Prep

Magazine article Corrections Forum

What's Hot in Food Prep

Article excerpt

the vendor's showcase is the arguably the main highlight of the annual ACFSA conference to be held in Sacramento this August. "This is where we learn new ideas and see new equipment demonstrated, new food and preparation ideas, and new ways to deliver food hot and in a sanitary manner," says Barbara Holly, CDM, CCFP, CFPP, who is current ACFSA president, as well as food service administrator, Alabama DOC. "There never is just one thing that you can single out at the showcase."

Many of the latest corrections foodservice changes and trends have to do with funding, or lack of it, and work ethics. According to Holly, more attention is being paid to special diets due to litigation. Employee retention is also a problem lately.

"We are losing our experienced leaders in the field. They are tired of trying to do more with less and are retiring earlier than they normally would. Some states, because of deficits in the general fund, are not able to promote or give merit increases to their foodservice employees," she explains.

The inmate population is increasing and foodservice budgets are decreasing, because most states operate out of the general fund. Holly adds that legislators refuse to look for ways to raise more monies to support state agencies because it may require raising taxes, which many are reluctant to do in fear of backlash from taxpayers.

Food services are being contracted out more and more often as a response to financial woes and high employee turnover rates in state and federal correctional facilities.

Foodservice equipment itself, meanwhile, is experiencing a trend back to the basics. Inmates who work in the kitchens utilize the equipment, so it needs to be simple enough for an untrained inmate to operate. Likewise, the equipment is also more "tamper proof" today, because inmates will take parts from whatever they can find to make weapons or sabotage the equipment.


Cooking Ahead

The Servolift system currently in use at the Federal Detention Center-Sea Tac (Seattle-Tacoma), Washington, is comprised of the following four components: Model MTRS-Rethermalization Cabinet; Model TR-72-Insert Rack; Model HTTC-72-Hot Tray Transport Cart; Model CTTC-Cold Tray Transport Cart.

At Sea Tac, the food is prepared and blast chilled in bulk, creating a three-to-five-meal inventory. Meals are portioned cold into Temp Tech trays (a "tray on tray" system-three compartment hot tray and a cold base tray); and transported to the inmate housing units in a hot tray transport cart and a cold tray transport cart-both carts have a capacity of 72 trays. The retherm units are located in pantries at the receptor site, in conjunction with a two-bank, roll-in refrigerator. Both models are designed to fit within the interior footprint of the roll-in refrigerator, and both have pass-through doors, allowing air circulation when inside the roll-in. At the time of retherm (which takes approximately 45-50 minutes) the HTTC is "docked" to the model MTRS and the insert rack, Model TR, is transferred to the retherm unit. The docking mechanism assures accurate and easy transfer from one unit to the other. The retherm unit allows the operator programming for up to six settings, which are controlled by time and temperature parameters. Once programmed, the unit only requires an on/off button to operate, since non-food service staff is typically responsible for meal service at the satellite units.

At the completion of the retherm cycle, the trays are assembled with the hot trays on the base cold tray and either served in cell or in the dayroom area. Soiled trays are returned in the same transport carts to the main production area. The company's recommendation is to maintain a double inventory of trays, transport carts and insert racks to allow tray make-up at least one meal in advance, which eliminates the pressures of returning, washing and drying trays in time for the next meal.

This system offers the following advantages: waste reduction-only the amount of food required in any given meal period is pulled from the food bank inventory; production scheduling-with a blast chiller and retherm system, production can be scheduled in a five-day work week, eliminating production staff on the weekends; food safety-blast chilling assures the rapid chilling of products through the danger zone (140° F to 40° F) and extends the shelf life of the product up to five days; temperature retention-retherming at the time of service ensures that hot food will be served hot, and cold food cold; and cost savings-those institutions currently using this system are estimating a minimum of 5 percent food cost savings on an annual basis. …

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