FOOD SERVICES: ACFSA Show Presents New Arrivals, Some Surprises

By Gater, Laura | Corrections Forum, September/October 2009 | Go to article overview

FOOD SERVICES: ACFSA Show Presents New Arrivals, Some Surprises


Gater, Laura, Corrections Forum


The 2009 American Correctional Food Service Association (ACFSA) Show in Grand Rapids, Michigan, held in August, was well-attended and imparted a wealth of information about food service equipment in the corrections industry.

Show organizers had fretted about the economy's affect on attendance. "All year, we were nervous about the show. Many other shows have canceled or had weak attendance by both vendors and attendees. We were thrilled that our attendance was up 10 percent from last year," says Pattie Whitlock, president, Design Specialties, Inc., and vendor liaison for equipment, ACFSA. In the end, she says, "the vendors were happy with the traffic at the show. There is no conference with better networking opportunities."

As far as purchasing trends for next year, money continues to be a problem, according to Whitlock.

Food service personnel need to meet the standard nutritional and food safety needs of inmates for less and less money, she says. For equipment, food service directors are looking for innovative ways to save without sacrificing durability. "Vendors are responding with new products, new designs, and new materials. There are more product choices than ever so the food service director needs to be educated to make the right choice for their operation."

Trends indicate a nod to catering to different ethnicities. Bud Chambers, correctional sales manager, Cambro Manufacturing, said he heard a lot of discussion about changing menus, and challenges such as managing operations and costs for ethnic foods and special religious requirements, such as Kosher diets.

Value was also a recurring theme at the show. "We had better turnout than last year's conference, and we are very fortunate to have the support of our members," states Benson Li, vice president elect/treasurer, ACFSA. "During economic hard times, everyone looks for value-added purchases ... At the conference, we all learned how to do more with less. Religious diets are also a continuous concern. Meat substitutes, such as soy products, were one of the common commodifies at the show."

Thirty people attended Li's Food Safety Managers' Certification Class and another 10 people attended Roy Costa's HACCP class the next day.

Among the educational tracks, food safety and diets were very popular topics. "It is a clear indication that food safety is our concern," points out Li.

The attendees also enjoyed the presentation of Chef Jeff, an inspirational speaker, about a success story of inmate training programs in correctional facilities. He was an inmate in one of the Culinary Art Training Programs in prison and became a celebrity chef on TV," explains Li.

Equipment supplier Baxter says they experienced steady traffic throughout the ACSFA show, according to Laura Barrentine, Baxter's product line manager. "In today's more challenging economic climate, customers expressed an increased focused on seeking to maintain their existing Baxter equipment. As a result, we had numerous conversations about the value of preventative maintenance to help maximize the life of equipment and the benefits that Hobart Service can offer customers."

In addition to the increase in turnout for the show, Jon Niçois, ACFSA president, said he noticed a trend of increasing dieticians and nutritionists working in and with correctional facilities. This may be "a reflection of the idea of healthier, nutritious food solving behavioral problems," he says.

Here are some of the products of note.

Fast Heat-up Griddles

Vulcan Hart Rapid Recovery (RR) Series griddles have a durable stainless steel cooking surface that is very easy to clean and maintain. This griddle plate is a composite material (a sandwich of stainless steel with an aluminum core). Performance testing confirms that the three-foot RRG griddle has a greater production capacity than a standard 48-inch griddle with a carbon steel cooking plate. All Vulcan Hart griddles are available with a correctional security package. …

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