Brittney Burns – Staff Writer

Since 2013, the cost of feeding inmates at the Macon County Detention Center has increased by 18 percent reaching $340,685 in the 2015-16 fiscal year. An increase in the number of inmates, paired with rising contract costs at Angel Medical Center, who has provided the meals to the jail, led county officials to attempt to negotiate costs and explore alternative options.

Increased food costs at Angel Medical Center is just one of the changes the facility has made recently in attempt to cut costs and stabilize revenues. Earlier this month, AMC announced the elimination of Labor and Delivery services at the Franklin hospital. Despite county leaders’ plea with both the AMC board and Mission Health board to reconsider the change in service, Mission Health announced last week, they would move forward with eliminating Labor and Delivery services on July 14. County leaders remain hopeful that a meeting with Mission officials will still be forthcoming.

Sheriff Robert Holland had been working with County Manager Derek Roland and county commissioners to negotiate the contract with Angel Medical Center since June 2016 in hopes of reducing costs, but those negotiations proved to not be as beneficial as exploring other provider options. On Tuesday night, Macon County Commissioners approved a new food service contract with Summit Food Service.

According to Macon County Sheriff’s Office’s Lt. Steve Stewart, the new company, which is based in Georgia and currently provides services to Clay County, will reduce the jail food costs by 50 percent while retaining a high quality of food services, which meets all state mandates.

The state requires that two of the three meals served to inmates must be hot and be served at regular times during a 24-hour period. The state also mandates that no more than 14 hours can go between the last meal of the day and the first meal of the next day.

The state mandates that all meals must meet the recommended dietary allowances of the National Academy of Sciences in terms of average nutrient content. Within a day, meals served to inmates must have two servings from the dairy group, two servings of fruit, one of which must be citrus, three vegetables, two servings of meat or protein, four servings of whole grain bread or cereal and in total, the meals for the day should have a calorie content of 2,100 -2,500. For pregnant women and inmates under 18, the dairy group should include four servings a day

The state also requires that reasonably possible modified diets be accommodated for medical, dental, or religious beliefs, and according to Stewart the new company will follow those guidelines.

“I have met with the Clay County Sheriff and their detention staff and they are happy with the food service,” said Stewart. “We are confident that this transition will reduce the amount of money being spent on food cost while still meeting all of the nutritional requirements of the state.”

The approved contract is for three years and will reduce the price per meal by 50 percent.  As a result, the food service line item in the Macon County Detention Center budget will decrease by 35 percent in FY ’17-’18 to $232,594.

The cost per meal for the jail will depend on the number of inmates housed at the jail. According to Stewart, Macon County averages 65 inmates, which would mean each meal at the detention center would cost $2.93. If the county’s inmate population drops below 61 inmates, the rate increases to $3.27. When the inmate population increased to more than 70, the cost of meals will decrease.

The meals will be prepared at the Clay County Jail and transported to the Macon County Sheriff’s Office.