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Food and Agriculture
By Terry Campbell, Professor, Purdue University Global
Published: 12/16/2021

Kitchen Our December topic focuses on Food and Agriculture. We often overlook the importance of these two areas. At the same time, we must be aware of additional security concerns. Food service is responsible for preparing three meals daily. In some facilities, we need to include meals for staff. This is pretty awesome when we consider the following example. The facility has 1,100 inmates and 100 staff. Approximately 1,200 meals are prepared three times a day. Food service staff must recognize any special diets consisting of medical and religious diets and holiday meals. The nutritional value must be met along with inmates who receive a snack between main meals, which may be diabetic and others. We did not even talk about inmates who are fed in their cells for security and classification concerns. As you quickly see, this is only the beginning of daily preparation tasks by food service, three times a day, 365 days out of the year. Some facilities contract out for meal service. Also, if food service is accredited, food service must ensure these policies are being met.

Food service is necessary, and food service personnel (Uniform and non-uniform) often do not receive recognition. I, for one, appreciate the service they provide. There are many obstacles faced daily in food service. If the kitchen makes their own bread, inmate baker’s days start early. One major concern is control for the yeast used in baking. The yeast, as most know, is a key ingredient in making homemade liquor. Sometimes, this is called ‘hooch’ and other names. If the facility houses a large population, feeding starts early, and preparations for the next meal begin. Food control (stealing) must be controlled by kitchen security.

The kitchen has a lot of potential weapons used in food preparation. Also, a very dangerous situation can occur when someone tampers with the meal. Like any prison jobs where offenders are often required to work, there are good workers and bad workers. Inmates assigned to food service are screened by classification. The offender’s medical status is also reviewed. Especially for inmates that may have had hepatitis. There are many people outside of food service who assist with security needs. This is ongoing 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

There are some additional areas to consider; meal trays are also prepared, labeled, and refrigerated. This is in case food poisoning occurs. We have to consider sanitation requirements. Examples; food served temperatures, items refrigerated, spoilage, items arriving daily use in food preparations, dishwasher and temps, and the list goes on.

Unfortunately, as many of you know firsthand, ongoing COVID concerns. This had a tremendous effect on staff as well as the inmate population. This is a topic in and of itself. Now we hear of another variant over Thanksgiving. Another concern and one where we have limited control.

Security in food service as mentioned previously has many issues and concerns they deal with on a daily basis. If offenders go to the dining hall, all staff must be aware anytime there is mass movement. In addition, monitoring how many times an offender is trying to enter the dining hall. Food shortages add to the security concerns. There are many additional security concerns.

Our next topic is Agriculture. Depending on the prison, some facilities have large farming operations, vegetable gardens, and other. The system I worked for had a dairy, chickens, hogs, cattle, horses, row crops, and vegetable gardens. We also had a freeze blast plant for processing vegetables to be used during winter months. Again, classification and security play a vital role. Anytime offenders work outside the perimeter fence, these add to the already numerous security concerns. Many systems faced same/similar concerns with COVID. Regardless of this and weather, livestock still must be fed and crops maintained.

Food service and agriculture are two very important programs for some states. We often do not consider food costs, and many states have done well in this area with curbing food costs. One other area I would like to address, is the added stress placed upon the inmates and our staff. Many facilities are facing an officer shortage, mandatory shots, and lack of resources. These are critical areas and attempts are made to try and control for any safety and additional security concerns. Keep up the very good work during these difficult times and stay safe.


Terry Campbell is a criminal justice professor at Purdue University Global and has more than 20 years of experience in corrections and policing. He has served in various roles, including prison warden and parole administrator, for the Arkansas Department of Corrections. Terry may be reached at tcampbell@purdueglobal.edu.

Other articles by Campbell


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