Callaway County Jail Administrator Robert Harrison opens the freezer where inmates’ meals are stored. After the abrupt closure of the jail’s former supplier, Mosers began supplying meals in July. Photo by Helen Wilbers /Fulton Sun.
After the abrupt closure of the Callaway County Jail’s former food provider, jail officials were left in a tough position.
“Obviously, jail operations never stop,” Callaway County Sheriff Clay Chism said.
With prisoners to feed and few bids to take over the contract, the county went with what Chism believes was the best option.
Meals are now provided by Mosers Foods. The new contract will cost taxpayers $65,000-$100,000 per year more than the previous one.
Signature Foods, the county’s partner for three years, closed in June.
“It was a complete shock,” Chism said.
Signature Foods’ former owners did not respond to a request for comment on the reason behind the closure. Callaway County Health Department representative Kent Woods said to his knowledge, the closure didn’t have to do with health code-related issues.
“The USDA would’ve needed to have been inspecting their process (for Signature to continue supplying meals to the jail),” Woods said. “They opted not to go with the USDA inspections because they’d have had to change some things.”
The modifications needed to comply with U.S. Department of Agriculture requirements would have been expensive, he said.
Chism said Signature Foods helped the jail stockpile some frozen meals before closing so inmates would have food to eat while the jail searched for a new partner. Callaway County commissioners opened an emergency bid process and received only two bids, despite extensive efforts by Chism and Jail Administrator Robert Harrison.
“We did explore the possibility of having a kitchen in our jail and preparing the food fresh here,” Chism said. “It was quickly apparent that the cost would have been horrendous.”
The jail contracted with Mosers Foods in July. After one year, the contract will be re-evaluated, Chism said.
Inmates are served a variety of food items for breakfast and receive “Hungry Man” frozen meals for lunch and dinner. The meals comply with federal nutritional requirements, Chism said.
“We did the nutritional breakdown as part of the bid process,” Harrison added.
So far, the meals have been well received by most inmates, he added.
“We had one complaint about one of the meals, and we just discontinued it and went to something else,” Harrison said.
Feeding each inmate costs about $7.83 per day, an increase from the $5.60 per day the jail paid under the previous contract.
Until 2014, the county relied on purchasing meals from Fulton State Hospital. In 2015, the jail transitioned to Signature Foods.
In 2014, the county spent $265,661 for prisoner meals. In 2017, that figure dropped by 42 percent to $154,784.96. The projected $65,000-$100,000 increase under the Mosers contract will return costs closer to pre-Signature Foods levels.
Chism said he sees a big silver lining in this arrangement.
“Over the last three months, the food service Mosers has provided has been stellar,” he said. “We’re happy that we can support a local business.”
By Helen Wilburs | Fulton Sun