Jim Beach: Costs in Custody

Jim Beach, CCFP, who holds the correctional officer rank of major in the Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff's Office in New Orleans and is its foodservice director, never planned on a career in foodservice. But fate "or Cupid" set him on that track some 23 years ago.

Now, as Beach and Mary Goodwin, MPH, LDN, RD, assistant director, along with a stalwart contingent of deputies deal with the destruction dealt by Hurricane Katrina to his facility, (an enclave of nine jails housing 7,000 inmates in a five-block area just down the street from the Louisiana Superdome) he's as upbeat and dedicated to his job as ever.

"I had worked for the A&P grocery chain, but they were going to transfer me out of New Orleans," he says. "Since I was dating someone, Angie, now my wife, and didn't want to relocate, I quit my job. But her father, who worked for the sheriff's office, told me I couldn't date his daughter if I didn't have a job, and since there was an opening in the office, he suggested I apply."

Thus Beach began his correctional career as a deputy on the piers, but two years later, the sheriff, recalling his A&P experience and equating it to "foodservice," assigned him to the kitchen. Following his predecessor's retirement three years later, he took over as foodservice director, the position he's held for the past 18 years.

During that time, the facility's inmate population has grown steadily from about 2,300 to its present (pre-Katrina) 7,000. Each day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, he and his staff of 45, along with about 90 inmates detailed to the kitchen, prepare more than 21,000 meals at a cost of $2.37 per inmate day, well within the department's $8 million budget.

Giving back: "We also prepare food, free of charge, for the elderly and for civic groups as requested," Beach says. "During the high school football season we do concession sales for the games and put the money back to help maintain the football fields. The sheriff's office adopted that project; it's another way for us to give back to the parish."

In the years since Beach took the helm, decreeing from the outset that cabbage, as per inmate requests, would no longer be served, he estimates that he and his team have reduced food costs by about one-third. In good measure, this has been effected by moving from a four- or five-week cycle menu to a six-week cycle. "With Mary Goodwin's help, (she's our dietitian as well as our warehouse directo) we are better able to forecast our food usage, making sure items are available, since they don't repeat as often," Beach explains.

"Through the bid system we can see what products we can get at the best prices. And, since Mary is the warehouse director, we're able to put out our own bids vs. having a purchasing department do it entirely. That all contributes to healthier menus and getting what we want."

More From FoodService Director

Menu Development
spilled coffee beans glasses

Following an initial test at the end of May, Starbucks announced that more than 500 of its stores will be pouring nitro coffee by the end of summer. Capitalizing on the cold-brew coffee trend—which reached $7.9 million in sales in 2015 on 115% growth from the previous year, according to researcher Mintel—select U.S. cafes will give up the counter space to serve the creamy, nitrogen-infused java made from the cold-brew base. But how did nitro become the hottest new thing in coffee?

Bringing the bar to coffeehouses

It was the chrome double tap, similar to a bar’s beer tap, and the...

Ideas and Innovation
star wars storm trooper

My favorite event—because I’m kind of dorky—is our “May the fourth be with you” (aka “Star Wars”) day on May 4. The whole dining team dresses up, and we offer things like Chewbaklava, Boba Fettuccine and BB-8 Buckeyes. We had a guest cry because they got to take a picture with Chewy.

Menu Development
recipe revamp chicken soup

As a continuous care retirement community, The Garlands of Barrington in Illinois provides daily foodservice to 270 independent living and skilled nursing care residents, with the majority of sodium restrictions coming from the latter, says Executive Chef Nicola Torres. Instead of cooking two versions of chicken noodle soup—a favorite offered at least twice a week—he reworked his recipe into a flavorful lower-sodium version that appeals to all. “Everybody eats soup, so I created a homemade stock that uses no salt at all, ramping up the flavor with fresh herbs and plenty of vegetables,...

Ideas and Innovation
tray number

We created lucky tray days to help create an experience surrounding our brand. The trays are numbered; we pick a number and the winner receives a free lunch. We’ve enlisted the help of one of our coaches, who calls out the random lucky winner, and it drums up a lot of excitement.

FSD Resources