At least three warm breakfasts a week are part of the new menu at the Ottawa County Jail since Chef’s Best began providing meal service for the inmates.
Chef’s Best Catering of Port Clinton started cooking June 1 for the prisoners at the Ottawa County Detention Facility located at the Ottawa County Courthouse and the misdemeanor jail at the county complex off Buckeye Boulevard.
Their contract specifies meals at $1.95 each and will be in effect for three years, Sheriff Steve Levorchick said.
Previously, the meals were provided by the Riverview Healthcare Campus for $2.44 per meal.
With an average of 80 inmates on site per day, the costs add up quickly. More than 86,000 meals were served last year, amounting to a $223,000 food bill, Levorchick said.
The sheriff hopes to cut meal expenses about $50,000 in the coming year with the new contract.
Riverview took over the meal distribution nearly a decade ago when Ottawa County Commissioners opted to close down the in-house kitchen in the basement of the detention facility.
“We had to let a lot of good people go. They were great people,” said Bob Bratton, who served as sheriff at the time of the kitchen’s shuttering. Bratton is now the chief of the Genoa Police Department. “Meals are a big factor for the jail. It’s a huge expense.”
Department finances have been debated for years, especially as the recession rolled through the county. But Bratton said aging kitchen equipment was also a factor in the kitchen’s closing. “We had some major equipment issues. We were looking at $100,000 for some new equipment we needed – and that was just the beginning.”
The commissioners at the time employed Riverview for the meal preparation and delivery, although Magruder Hospital had also been considered, Bratton said.
Still, no contract was ever advertised or inked, Levorchick said.
And in reviewing finances, the sheriff decided to see if a cheaper option was available by putting the contract up for bid.
Chef’s Best, run by owner John Couture and his family, is well known in the Port Clinton area for its catering services and its meals served daily at the Maple Street business. The company puts out a monthly schedule of meals that customers can pick up normally for $5.50 per dinner. Selection ranges from ribs, chicken and fish platters to a turkey dinner with all the trimmings.
The calorie count at the jail was about 1,800 per meal before. That’ll rise to close to 2,400 calories per meal, Levorchick said.
One of the first changes will be in the breakfast menu.
“Right now we only have cold breakfasts each day,” Levorchick said in the final days of May.
Under the new contract, inmates will get three hot meals a week of comprised of various foods, he said. “The lunch menus are also being looked at,” the sheriff said.
Bratton sees the new service as Levorchick cutting expenses but still maintaining a respectable level of service for inmates.