Thinking INSIDE the "Box"

Russ Duke, the Director of the Central District Health Department (CDHD) recently met with the Board. He brought to our attention the fact that due to financial constraints, CDHD is struggling to continue to provide approximately 600 meals a day at senior centers and another 600 a day for the Meals on Wheels program. He is trying to assist the Southwest Idaho Area 3 Agency on Aging in finding a different contractor as CDHD, which has provided the service for 34 years, has given them a May 29 deadline to have another meal provider or providers in place. There is no quick and easy solution.

At the time of the conversation with CDHD Director Duke, the Ada County Jail came to mind, where we have a large commercial kitchen and free inmate labor provided by trustees. According to Ada County Sheriff’s Captain Linda Scown, who runs the jail, the facility provides 3200 meals a day at an average cost of 88 cents a piece for the food, plus the cost of supervision from jail staff. I am trying to obtain cost data for staff time involved.

Captain Scown and Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney are willing to consider the use of the kitchen, although there are numerous issues that would have to be addressed first, such as storage, nutritional specifications, etc. The CDHD Board met today, and I presented the idea to them, as well. The Board was supportive of the idea and Chair Steve Scanlin particularly liked the idea of inmates being able to give something back to the community by helping our seniors.

Admittedly, there are any number of reasons why my suggestion of using the jail kitchen and inmates to cook meals for seniors might not work out, but with the economic crisis being faced by government agencies at all levels these days, it is my preference to fully explore unique problem-solving strategies before ruling them out.

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