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FM Profile: Phil Atkinson

FM Profile: Phil Atkinson

President, 2013-14, Association for Correctional Food Service Affiliates

When I complete my term in office, I will feel I have been successful if ACFSA is no longer the best-kept secret in foodservice and we are able to increase the scope of our membership to include students in culinary programs across the country.

Our members would like to see ACFSA become nationally recognized as a resource for information in a range of areas—management, food and menu costing, equipment selection, etc.—for Correctional Foodservice. They would also like to see ACFSA provide a higher level of recognition in terms of the professionalism and dedication of its members.

The ACFSA projects I am most focused on right now are first, working with culinary schools to raise the awareness and interest of students in the correctional foodservice field; and second, finishing the ACFSA Correctional Package Equipment Specification document that began in the mid-90s. My goal is to have this ready to present to NAFEM at its 2015 meeting.

My strongest professional role model has always been my first supervisor in correctional food services, who has asked to remain nameless. He taught me the ins and outs—menu planning, lock-down feeding, special diet management—but more importantly, taught me how to work with inmates. He told every incarcerated worker during orientation that they had his respect when they agreed to work in the kitchen, and that they needed to work to keep it. Respect has to be earned.

The biggest misconception people have about correctonal foodservice is that employees in this field couldn’t make it in the restaurant business. I believe the exact opposite is true. Those working in correctional foodservice are some of best-trained and most dedicated individuals in the industry. We take great pride in what we do and have the utmost concern for those whom we serve.

The best way to improve the image of this field is to never answer the “where do you work, what do you do?” question with, “Oh, I just work in foodservice at the prison/jail.” We need to show we are proud of what we do and that we perform at a level reflecting our pride and professionalism.
The professional accomplishment I am most proud of? In 2007, with the help of my lead production cook,  I devised a diet management system for inmates with food allergies. It gives each inmate three choices, which puts diet management in their hands.

People are surprised to find that I am a classically-trained vocalist  and that I taught vocal music at the high school level for seven years.

The best advice anyone ever gave me came from a priest I worked with during my first year as a teacher. He was fluent in Latin and once told me, “Illigitimi non carborundum est.” Loosely translated, it means, “Don’t let the little people get you down.” It has served me well for 40 years.

If I could write my own epitaph it would be 2 Timothy vs. 7: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.”

At a Glance

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Association of Correctional Foodservice Affiliates (ACFSA)
No. of Members: 700
HQ Address: 210 Glenoaks Blvd., Ste. C, Burbank, CA 91502
Executive Director: Jon Nichols

Phone: (000) 222-1111

To develop and promote  educational programming and networking activities that improve professionalism and provide an opportunity to broaden knowledge in the correctional foodservice field.
Job: Food Service and Laundry Programs Manager, Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office
Bachelor’s of Music Education; 65 years of life experiences;
40 years in food service.
2009: Unit Citation Award, Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office
2010: Elected ACFSA Vice President Elect/Treasurer
2011: Nominated Minnesota Sheriff’s Association Supervisor of the Year
2013: Hennepin County Champion of Change Award

*The opinions  expressed inthis interview do not represent the opinions or policies of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office.

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