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Grand Jury Finds Food at County Jail Meets State Standards

After outcry from some inmates and family members surfaced last year about the quality of meals served at the county jail, Santa Barbara County's Grand Jury issued a report Monday that stated the food meets state standards.

The jail provides about 3,300 meals to inmates on a daily basis and more than 1.2 million meals annually, and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department has a seven-year contract with Aramark Correctional Services to provide these meals.

The jail's meal program came under fire earlier this summer when inmates complained that the servings were too small and contained too much soy.

The Sheriff’s Department insisted that the meals provided are up to state standards, and hired a private company in 2012 to provide the meals. Before, meals were prepared by kitchen staff and prisoner workers.

When the department switched to Aramark, it saved $85,392 in the first year.

In July 2013, the jury received a complaint from prisoners about the quantity and quality of the food served. Complaints also came in that the jail's commissary prices were higher than the general public pays in local stores.

On Monday, however, the jury issued a report stating that the food met state standards and that prices in the commissary, operated by Keefe Commissary Network, are comparable to the public rates. 

Scroll down to read a full copy of the report.

The jury inspected the jail kitchen, interviewed an Aramark official, reviewed a month-long menu and even conducted an unannounced  visit.

They randomly selected an evening meal, "and evaluated the food for freshness, temperature, taste and content," according to the Grand Jury report.

Jurors tasted a dinner meal that included a 10-ounce serving of "American goulash," containing three ounces of soy, elbow macaroni and chopped fresh onion, fresh cooked broccoli, fresh cornbread, two sandwich cookies, fruit drink mix, and a packet of salt and pepper.

"Overall, the jury found the meal was consistent in quality and quantity with what one would receive in any large institutional dining room," the report stated.

The meals meet all the necessary guidelines pursuant to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation standards, the jury stated, adding that "the meals are flavorful, filling and contain fresh local produce. They are heart-healthy, low fat, and meet the nutritional guidelines of the State of California."

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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