I am writing on behalf of all the inmates at Ross Correctional Institution, as well as for other Institutions in the state of Ohio in regards to the meals served which consist of nutritionally inadequate portions that cause inmates across this state to suffer hunger pangs between meals.
Have you ever questioned "Why, as dear as money must be to inmates who have loved ones willing to send it, would they spend so much of it on food items from the commissary?" I do question it. In regards to snack items, I believe it is only because we desire an extra treat or some flavor in our diet. I question why we spend the money on chili, soups, beans, fish, canned meats, macaroni and cheese, cereal, etc. if our institutional diet is so nutritious.
There is little wonder that we would be hungry, based on the menu and portions served to us. Meals and portions purportedly prepared from the master menu in Columbus under the direction of a dietician. They sound monotonous, tasteless, and most of all, do not satisfy our nutritional needs.
I would like to ask the State (giving their concern for an adequate diet the full benefit of the doubt) if you have any conception of the worthlessness of the reports of inspections and follow-ups in regards to your diet plan, as carried out by the inspectors? Well, let me tell you.
First of all, their major concern is in justifying their treatment of the inmates who are their wards. The institution will likely be advised hours in advance of the pending inspection. It only requires a few minutes to change over to more appropriately sized serving utensils, which will give us the correct portions as required by the master menu. How do I know this?
I have personally worked in several institutional kitchens, and have been on duty during these so-called inspections. I have yet to see an inspector sample the food for taste or proper temperatures. I have yet to hear an inspector ask when the food was prepared or when it was placed on the line. I have yet to hear an inspector ask a food server if the portions currently being served are the portions generally received by the inmates. I have yet to hear an inspector ask the inmates at the tables eating, does the food taste alright, or do they believe they are getting enough nutritionally correct foods to eat, or do they get hungry between meals? Following a procedure such as this would represent a more accurate and ethical inspection and follow-up.
When the master menu shows pinto beans, for example, are they aware that we receive exactly that? Dried beans boiled in hot water. Would you prepare and serve beans like that for you and your family?
Would O.D.R.C. dispute the connection between hunger pains and a low nutritional level within the body in need of replenishment? Would the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, (re Starvation) dispute that the metabolism rate differs between different individuals? Would they dispute my saying that processed foods have less nutritional value than fresh foods? Would they dispute that preparation has a great deal to do with the end result in regard to nutritional value?
For instance, if we serve green beans, they come from a can, they are boiled during preparation, then sit in this water for hours, slowcooking, before serving them to the prison's population. What is the difference in nutritional value between such a usage and preparation when compared to steamed, fresh green beans? When you are figuring the nutritional value for the master menu, from which bean, fresh or canned, steamed or boiled, do you compute it? What really happens to the water soluble vitamins in boiled vegetables?
Another example: when fruit is substituted with jello, we are not receiving a food of any real nutritional value. If one piece of fruit cocktail is in the jello, that does not represent a fruit serving.
Nine years ago, when I was first incarcerated, I noticed the morning meals often included breakfast meats, hashbrowns, fried eggs and biscuits. We no longer receive any of those food items at breakfast, yet we receive the same "adequate nutrition" responses when we grieve (sic) the issue of poor nutrition to the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, (re Starvation). But three-fourths of an ounce of processed cereal does not represent an "adequate portion" of grains. Diluted fruit drink does not equal a serving of fresh breakfast fruit. Hot cakes, french toast, and a package of waffles prepared a day prior to the time they are served, represents a higher intake of bacteria than nutrition.
When we are served sliced, canned turkey or rolled turkey, it is one piece sliced so thin it frays. How can we be receiving more than an ounce or ounce and a half of meat? It is the same with bologna. When we receive one small hamburger patty, how can we be receiving more than two ounces of meat when McDonald's puts two patties on a quarter pounder? When we are served hot dogs, we are only receiving 2.4 ounces of meat. One piece of an undersized chicken does not represent an "adequate serving" of meat. When we receive pasta with a scattering of hamburger granules (sic) that would not make one standard size meatball, it does not represent an "adequate serving" of meat.
Why is it that a guard, who does not show any signs of obesity, can come behind the food serving line and dish up for him/herself, the equivalent of five inmate meat servings? He or she has no greater nutritional needs than that of an inmate.
One inmate here complains that while eating the three daily meals offered, plus one commissary soup each night, that he lost fourteen pounds in his first month of incarceration at Ross. He is in his 50's and does not exercise beyond daily work assignment. How can this be when it requires 3500 calories below your bodily needs to lose just one pound?
Ross Correctional Institution even eliminated the diet line for inmates with special diets, and diabetics, who require special foods ordered by a dietician, are forced to disregard dieticians' orders in order to eat the same foods as the population, which are higher in starch and salt. The diabetics are filing informals, as well as grievances due to this malnutrition that they are receiving here at Ross. Administration is ignoring the issue, as usual. Instead, it looks at the money issues as saving a buck, not someone's life. This is pure negligence on Administration's part, in my opinion.
I believe this correspondence adequately describes the nutritional complaint of the average Ross Correctional inmate. I fully realize that O.D.R.C. is not required to justify anything to me, an inmate. Therefore, I am going public with this complaint to the Ohio Department of Health, as well as to other government agencies. I am asking for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (re Starvation) to have an opportunity to express their dietetic ethical values.
Please direct your questions or comments to: