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American Correctional Food

What are the most challenging aspects of a career in correctional foodservice?
Security is foremost. Preparing healthy attractive meals three times a day, seven days a week with a limited budget and within the security restrictions of a correctional facility. A person working in corrections must be a strong person with thick skin. You must relate to inmates on an individual level while remaining at a professional distance.

What are some typical jobs available to those interested in the field?
Correctional foodservice jobs include Food-service Administrators, managers, Officers/Chefs, Procurement Managers, Dietitians, Instructors/Trainers for staff, Instructors for Culinary or Bakery Programs, Procurement/Contract Specialists, Receiving/Storeroom Clerks, and Administrative Assistants

What are compensation levels like? What about benefits?
Salaries vary greatly throughout counties, states and federal institutions. The Dietary Officer's starting salary is greater than a Correctional Officer because of their specialty requirements. They are required to have 5 years of institutional experience and many are trained chefs. We receive an excellent benefit package and public safety's 25-year retirement plan.

What would a culinary graduate or chef like about working in this field?
We certainly have job security; it's not likely that the facility will close and that the "customers" will stop coming to us. The inmate population is becoming older and many have serious health issues that are challenging for the dietitian. The job is never boring; every day is challenging and eventful.

Do you have any advice for students?
Think beyond the sterotypical image of the old "jail" kitchen in the back of the institution that many people still have. Our staff is educated, trained and professional. Our newest facilities have state-of-the-art equipment and professional chefs and managers to go with it.

What do people in your position see as their greatest accomplishments?
To see an inmate graduate from the bakery program equipped with marketable skills and a sanitation management certification, which gives him the tools to make it in the real world. They also receive counseling to cope with their addictions and the many issues they must overcome in their lives. At the Pre-Release Center they are given the resources to acquire that skilled job with the potential to reach their goals as a lawabiding citizen. That's what rehabilitation and re-entry is all about.

What are the benefits for the correctional foodservice employee of belonging to the ACFSA ?
The members come from all over the country and the world. They work in facilities from juvenile to county to state penitentiaries to federal institutions. Each member brings a wide variety of experience and knowledge to the table. The networking possibilities are quite extensive. If a member has a problem or question there are many ways to receive input from others. We have a directory of member and vendors. We have a Web site and we have a quarterly newsletter. They could ask questions through "Dietitians in Corrections". Our Annual International Conference is an excellent opportunity for training, networking and seeing other facilities. You would also the experience to walk the isles in the vendor expo and see the latest equipment and food products available for the correctional facility. Many vendors offer correctional packages for extra security on cooking equipment. They offer software packages to control inventory and perform menu nutritional and cost analysis.

How can I find out more?
You can visit and explore our Web site to learn more about ACFSA.

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