Barbara Holly: Making Corrections

“I had the manufacturer prepare it for my 30 chief stewards at our quarterly meeting and they loved it—and the inmates like it as well,” she states. “To feed my whole population, it takes 49 cases and that’s about the size of three shoe boxes together the long way. That frees up a lot of storage and freezer space plus it removes the threat of salmonella. It saves the room needed to store 35,100 pounds of chicken for a month. We still serve fried and barbecue chicken, each twice a month, but for casseroles now we use the protein entree instead of chicken.”

The Alabama DOC continues its meat processing program, in place when Holly arrived. Cattle are raised at department facilities throughout the state, then sold at a profit. “We purchase Grade B beef, then add TVP to it to make it more moist,” she points out. “None of my beef products costs more than 17¢ per serving. We use inmate labor and three supervisors, and there’s a USDA inspector on-site at all times.”

Low-bid bane: A “dairy,” previously devoted to reconstituting powdered milk, is no longer up and running at Elmore since needed equipment replacement would have cost $18,000. When Holly arrived, the department wasn’t serving milk at all, but she insisted that it must be menued.

“I went to a manufacturer in Tennessee to formulate a product that also included four ounces of orange juice—like an Orange Julius but without the egg,” she explains. “It was a great-tasting product and fine for those who are lactose-intolerant. We’d send out our bid and other manufacturers would claim they had the product but the taste and consistency weren’t right. Each time it cost us $600 to send out these other products to a lab—a waste of time and money. Unfortunately, the product from the company in Tennessee was not the low bid item so I just went to skim milk at 15.4 cents for a half-pint.”

Additional cost-cutting measures Holly implemented prior to her departure include:

  • Use of heavy-duty, low flash point, all-vegetable shortening instead of oil and all-purpose vegetable shortening, for a savings of $4,914. “My people were misusing the oil—using it for everything,” she recalls. “What we bought was just as good. Our menu comes out to be about 33% of calories from fat and we don’t serve a lot of fried food. Fried fish and fried chicken are each menued twice a month and french fries three times a month—that’s all the fried food we have.”
  • Whole turkeys for holiday meals are a thing of the past. Now it’s cooked turkey breasts—just slice and heat with no waste—for a savings of $4,900.
  • Northern beans are substituted for dried lima beans for a savings of $58,860.
  • Individual packs of ketchup and mustard instead of bulk containers saved $20,196. “You’d expect that buying in bulk would be cheaper,” she points out, “but there’s no control over how much inmates on the line would serve—a spoonful could be level or heaping.” 
  • Apples are substituted for dried peaches in desserts for a savings of $19,180.

Swapping the deck: In order to streamline production—albeit without the budget to effect major renovations—Holly replaced aging deck ovens with convection units. The deck ovens were in use for decades, took up too much room, used too much gas and got too hot. “The old ovens have three decks and only hold two bread pans each,” she says. Two double-stack convention units occupy the footprint of one deck oven, and each holds 24 pans—12 pans per deck.

She’s also been championing the purchase of boilerless steamers that work on a vacuum seal and, since they don’t need to go under a hood, they can be put on a table. “It cooks your food and will hold it for service so you don’t need a hot box,” she adds. “It gives a small facility of 400 inmates or less a new option, and it means fewer pots and pans on the stove.”

In retrospect, Holly is most proud of her ongoing relationships with foodservice personnel in the state facilities and knows they realize she was there to help them grow. She’s especially pleased to have gotten all 112 of the stewards certified in sanitation.

“I had the health department come in and conduct two all-day sessions,” she says. “The Alabama code is changing as it follows the national guidelines, and soon everyone who works in foodservice will be certified. The code has yet to be adopted, but we feel sure it will be—and we’ll be ready.”

Just now, the only kitchen Holly’s overseeing is the one in her own home, but she knows she’ll be back “behind the wall” where she’s  “proud of the money saved—but most proud to be of service.”

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
nutrition facts label

Despite operators’ attempts to communicate nutrition information to guests via cards and labels on the food line, many guests still feel they have no clue what’s in their food. University of Illinois food economist Brenna Ellison shares a few guesses as to why consumers ignore these signs following a recent study on their placement in dining halls.

Q: Who is most likely to read the cards?

A: Students who were already exhibiting more healthy behaviors. So those were the students who track their intake using an app or a food diary. After the first week, we found the rates of people...

Managing Your Business
studient orientation

When an alma mater and an employer are one in the same, it can be a win-win for both the employee and the school. Here’s how two students’ experiences with campus dining—one positive and the other negative—led them on a path to their current jobs.

A Feast to Remember

NC State University’s main campus in Raleigh, N.C. was built on farmland given to the state by Richard Stanhope Pullen; every spring, students gather to celebrate those agricultural roots through Farm Feast, an outdoor celebration with food and music. Design major Christin King remembers her first Farm Feast vividly: “...

People in Foodservice
lucretia chancler

Lucretia Chancler’s roots lie in Louisiana’s St. Landry Parish. She grew up in the parish, and her mother taught in the school district for 33 years—even occasionally teaching young Lucretia. Advanced degrees and a post-grad job took her to Colorado, Georgia and other places, but St. Landry soon called Chancler back home.

In October 2009, Chancler returned to Louisiana to become St. Landry’s supervisor of child nutrition. The parish’s economic makeup is a big driver behind Chancler’s local mission: More than 85% of the 14,000 students at the parish’s 32 schools are eligible for...

Menu Development
chefs council spread

Last October, we published the results of FoodService Director’s first annual Chefs’ Council Menu Trends survey, revealing predictions for menu shake-ups in 2016 . Many of the predictions panned out, including an increase in snacking, ever-spicier flavor profiles, veg-centric plates, fresh-pressed juices and build-your-own options. Now we’re back with next year’s forecast, culled from our panel of 50 Chefs’ Council members—culinarians representing the core segments of noncommercial foodservice. Some of the flavors, ingredients and cuisines expand on current trends, while others go off in...

FSD Resources