County board approves budget-friendly jail food contract

By John Holler Correspondent:

Food bills are always a topic of interest when you’re feeding groups of people. Whether it’s a family filling a shopping cart a couple times week, preparing enough food to host a summer party, or going out for a meal, food options are plentiful and at times can be pretty expensive.

However, sometimes prices come in low enough that it can be a positive surprise. At a time when Wright County is still paying off a jail facility built almost a decade ago and a new courts facility breaking ground now, anywhere the county can keep its costs down are viewed as a plus.

The Wright County Board of Commissioners got good news at its May 29 meeting, as Jail Administrator Pat O’Malley came to the board seeking a three-year extension of the current food service contract the county has with Aramark Inc., a nationwide food provider for jails and prisons.

It was explained that the three year contract extension would result in a zero increase in cost the first year, and 2.5 percent increases in each of the final two years – a net result of an annual 1.7 percent increase over the life of the contract. The new deal will take effect July 1, 2018 and run through June 30, 2021.

What made the cost breakdown more impressive was the per-meal cost. Aramark breaks down its meal prices based on the occupancy of the jail. If there are 81-90 prisoners – the lowest amount such contracts cover – the cost of a meal is $3.51. The other end of that spectrum is the rate for 201-plus prisoners; that cost is $2.13 per-meal.

Sheriff Joe Hagerty stated the average daily prisoner population in the county jail is running consistently in the 215-a-day range, which qualifies for the lowest price. O’- Malley said that in a competitive industry like feeding prisoners, Wright County is getting a very good price because once a company has you in the fold, they will go out of their way to keep you.

“We are very much in the money,” O’Malley said. “With the research I do with other jails across the state and how they’re paying for meals, our contract rates are very competitive.”

Board Chair Mark Daleiden pointed out that while the county has jail costs that can get excessive – medical issues topping that list – one area the taxpayers in the county can feel good about is that there won’t be a budget pinch with the food contract.

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