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.”
 

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