Prison food

Sullivan County jail takes over Meals on Wheels

By ANNEMARIE SCHUETZ
Posted 8/24/21

MONTICELLO, NY — Sullivan’s Meals on Wheels program will soon be run from a different kitchen.

On August 19, the Sullivan County Legislature created four new kitchen positions at the …

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Prison food

Sullivan County jail takes over Meals on Wheels

Posted

MONTICELLO, NY — Sullivan’s Meals on Wheels program will soon be run from a different kitchen.

On August 19, the Sullivan County Legislature created four new kitchen positions at the county jail, dropped four similar positions at the Care Center at Sunset Lake, and thus moved the making of Meals on Wheels meals from the nursing home to the jail.

It’s a shift that will move trustees (inmates) out of the prison kitchen, and allow the corrections officer who was watching them to do something else.

The county estimates that the changes will save $150,000.

Meals on Wheels is paid for by a mix of funding. According to the Meals on Wheels Association of America, federal sources (mainly from the Older Americans Act Nutrition Program) cover about a third of the costs, and states, local communities, and the person getting the meals handle the rest. Medicaid or Medicare often partly pays for home-delivered meals, and donations are important, as are block grants. Municipalities can fund some of it as well.

The resolution was discussed in the executive committee meeting. Hal Smith, head of the jail, said that the kitchen has ample space for handling the extra work. And the staff there is used to complex dietary needs; under state law, they are supposed to accommodate the inmates’ requirements. “It’s not like they’re throwing a bunch of stuff in a pot and handing it out to the population,” he said.

Plus, “on any given day,” Smith said, the prison kitchen has only two staff members (plus, currently, the trustees) to cook. There are four staff positions total.

Meals on Wheels food would be prepared at the same time as the prison food. Nadia Rajsz asked if four new staff are enough to handle it all.

Smith had run the question past the previous head of the jail kitchen, now retired, who thought it would work. “Everyone’s going to chip in; everyone’s going to help,” Smith said.

Correspondently, four positions would be subtracted from the kitchen at the care center. Assistant County Manager Michelle Huck said that there were 28 kitchen staff positions there.

Smith argued that the jail kitchen runs efficiently with its small staff and a budget of $309,000.

The measure passed, 9-0.

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