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Inmates get job training in the kitchen

February 27, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Los Angeles County jails have thousands of mouths to feed.Now some inmates are getting job training in the kitchen. They're cooking to feed fellow prisoners while learning some valuable skills.

The L.A. County Sheriff's Department food services unit prepares 87,000 meals everyday, seven days a week, for 20,000 inmates and 4,000 staff. L.A. Sheriff Lee Baca says controlling the food is more cost effective.

"We prepare the food, we control the process, we cook-chill it," said Sheriff Baca. "We save money by serving only food that will be eaten and there's no waste."

The Sheriff's Department uses a cook-chill system when preparing meals. The food is cooked then stored in cold storage. The system gives macaroni and cheese a shelf life of around 30 days.

One-thousand inmates make up much of the labor force in the kitchens. Some men and women are taking advantage of the culinary school provided.

The pastries made by these inmates are more than just something sweet to enjoy.

"The transformation I get to witness in these women is watching them blossom, open up," said Aram Scorza, cooking Instructor. "You know, come from a space of not feeling any self-worth to 'I can do it' and 'I can go out and achieve anything.'"

The Sheriff's Department has already placed former inmates in good paying jobs.

"I just talked to the ladies in this program. They're all assuring me that this is what they want to do when they get out," said Karen Dalton, inmate services. "That they have the knowledge now and they want to take that know ledge and they want to put it into a job when they get out of here."

Along with job training and feeding the inmates and staff, the Sheriff's Department's kitchens also provides meals for a handful of schools in L.A. County. Preparing the meals themselves is cheaper and healthier.

"We've looked into having private vendors come in and provide the food to the inmates and we found that they can't do it better than us," said Sheriff Baca. "They can't do it anymore nutritionally sound as we do and that it saves the taxpayers a lot of money."

By controlling the food services for the entire jail system, the average cost to feed an inmate three meals a day is about $2.50, according to the Sheriff's Department.

 

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