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New vendor aims to provide jail more cost-effective meals

Warren County Sheriff’s Department will be dishing up good food and hopefully financial savings. 

The department is welcoming a new food vendor, Kellwell Food Management. The jail had been managing its own kitchen since February.

“It will help our correction officers be able to focus on different things other than the kitchen,” said Sheriff’s Major Jason Walker. “Correction officers have been doing inventory and Jackie (Rackley, jail administrator) has been doing the ordering. This company completely manages the kitchen and all we have to do is provide the equipment, which is already there, and the inmates to help prepare the meals.”

Kellwell Food Management was selected by the county to fill the jail’s food service needs. Along with three hot meals a day, the business provides commissary foods and a culinary arts program for selected inmates. 

It is estimated the provider could save the county up to $100,000 a year on inmate meals, while providing a better quality of food. 

Recent figures show the jail with 152 inmates. According to the contract, Kellwell’s cost per meal varies depending on the number of inmates. As population rises, the cost per meal goes down. At 152 inmates, the cost per meal is $1.47.

“The lowest we were ever able to get the cost per meal was $1.21 when we had over 250 inmates,” said Walker.

At 250 inmates, Kellwell’s cost per meal will be $1.16.

During 2019-20 fiscal year, which runs July 1 thru June 30, Warren County government allocated $456,000 for the jail’s food budget. Of that amount, $120,000 was transferred to other line items and $321,526 was spent on food, leaving $14,574 on June 30, 2020. For 2020-21 fiscal year, commissioners approved $441,000 for food. 

Along with offering three hot meals a day and commissary options, Kellwell will also be offering inmates a Culinary Arts Vocational Program, a 9-week course designed to teach inmates essential food preparation skills. The program is designed to foster inmate morale and assist with transition back into the workforce. 

Inmates who graduate from the course are given a culinary certificate. No date has been set for that course to begin.