Mystery Meat, Bologna Soup and Maggots: What It's Like to Eat Aramark's Food in Jail

This week's feature story from Scene's sister paper, the Metro Times up in Detroit, is a lovely dive into the world of Aramark and prison food that is as applicable here in the Buckeye State as it is up in That State Up North.

Aramark, in case you haven't been following along, has come under fire for a long list of alleged fuckups — maggots in food, employees boinking inmates, service workers pulling food from the garbage, rotten meat being plopped on trays, etc. — and for that outstanding service, the likes of which have also been the subject of complaints in Ohio, the national mega-food corporation has asked Michigan for a raise. Ohio, for its part, has already decided to re-up with the Philadelphia-based company d espite the problems. Aramark's current contract in Michigan, signed in late 2013, was for three years and $145 million. The state is currently soliciting proposals from Aramark's competitors.

Our writer had the unfortunate circumstance of spending a significant amount of time in Michigan's Oakland County jail, and he details it all — the commissary cookups, how to make beans in the shower, the hoarding, the bartering, and a delightful little prison recipe collection. Do give it a read. Here's a small excerpt:

The contract stipulates Aramark must serve 2,600 calories to male inmates each day in addition to meeting the weekly nutritional benchmarks. According to an Oakland County official, the same goes for the Oakland County Jail. The idea that Aramark puts 2,600 calories in front of the jail inmates daily would be laughable if it weren't for the fact that going hungry isn't very funny. The state even cited Aramark hundreds of times for shorting meals and making unauthorized substitutions, though it should be noted none came out of Oakland County Jail.

Of course it's difficult to prove Aramark, which is charging the state just under $4 a day to feed an inmate, is cutting calories, but the unique meal schedule and menu at the jail supports the claim. The breakfast bell rings promptly at 4:30 a.m. each morning and we dragged ourselves out of bed for something like a hard-boiled egg, frozen apple cubes, and plain oatmeal or grits along with powdered milk. Lunch, which was an actual meal, arrived at 10:30 a.m.

The dinner chow line ran at 3:30 p.m., though calling it dinner is generous. This is where the well-traveled prisoners reported Oakland County Jail differed from the rest of the prison and jail system. Every afternoon, instead of a hot meal, we received four slices of white bread and a slice of baloney cut in half along with a few cookies. So after 10:30 a.m., Oakland County's inmates are given a snack that would leave most 8-year-olds hungry an hour later but is supposed to get adults through until 4:30 a.m. the next day.

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