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State Workers Vie To Win Back Food Service Contract For Ohio's Prisons

Warren Correctional Institution in Lebanon, Ohio
Jerry Kenney
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Warren Correctional Institution in Lebanon, Ohio

After losing the contract to provide food service for Ohio Prisons in 2013, the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, (OCSEA) is trying to win the contract back.

To save costs two years ago, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections selected Aramark, a large private contractor, to supply food to state prisons.

Aramark has been scrutinized in the last year following reports of unsanitary work conditions, and staffing and food shortages. But prisons director Gary Mohr says he's not concerned about renewing the contract.

“What’s important to note and what’s not been talked about is, if you look at the performance of Aramark over the last year and you look graphically at the number of incidents, they’ve dramatically gone down,” he said.  

Mohr has worked in the state prison system for forty years and says he saw the same issues, the same period of adjustment, when state workers took over privatized food service decades ago.

Now, the employees union, which also represents prison guards and food service personnel says it has a new proposal that would reduce costs for the state.

“We believe we can make the institution safer, make the food service operation more efficient, and still save more than $2.9 million dollars below Aramark's Costs," says Michael Tenney, a member of the union's Food Service Committee.

The department of corrections says it will consider the union’s proposal before a new contract is issued this summer.

Jerry Kenney was introduced to WYSO by a friend and within a year of first tuning in became an avid listener and supporter. He began volunteering at the station in 1991 and began hosting Alpha Rhythms in February of 1992. Jerry joined the WYSO staff in 2007 as a host of All Things Considered and soon transitioned into hosting Morning Edition. In addition to now hosting All Things Considered, Jerry is the host and producer of WYSO Weekend, WYSO's weekly news and arts magazine. He has also produced several radio dramas for WYSO in collaboration with local theater companies. Jerry has won several Ohio AP awards as well as an award from PRINDI for his work with the WYSO news department. Jerry says that the best part of his job is being able to talk to people in the community and share their experiences with WYSO listeners.