Local officials may turn lemons into lemonade.
The bad news: Senior Services of Southeast Kansas, Inc., has lost its building lease in Coffeyville, said Director Rosalind Scarbrough, resulting in organizational changes. Among them, hot meals delivered to Iola each week day for congregate meals and Meals on Wheels will be replaced with a five-day menu of frozen meals brought once a week.
The good news: Meals may be prepared daily at the Allen County Jail. Sheriff Bryan Murphy, County Clerk Sherrie Riebel and Glenda Creason, who looks after meals distribution at Iola’s senior center, will consider such a plan when they meet Thursday morning.
The outcome could be of advantage to county coffers.
Meals today cost $2.48, with federal and state subsidies. Murphy is confident they could be prepared by his cooking trio of Darlene Kitchens, Timaro Williams and Debra Holberman for about $1.50 each; that’s what inmates’ meals average.
He also thinks the fare will be more appealing.
“The cooks, led by Darlene, do wonders with meals; they’re very creative,” he said. “Last week they fixed bacon-wrapped cabbage. Another day they had pork roast.” Each meal also included ample helpings of vegetables, most grown in the jail garden during warm weather, and topped off with “something sweet,” he added.
“Our inmates usually gain a little weight,” he said. Inmates receive two hot meals — breakfast and lunch— and a cold sandwich in the evening.
Those who partake are given opportunity to donate to offset county costs. Last year contributions paid about a third of meals’ cost, $5,328.60 of $18,612.40 total.
Riebel said about 50 senior noon meals are delivered a each week day in the county. On average, 45 inmates are fed each day at the jail. That would put daily lunch consumption at about 95 meals, or not enough of an increase to tax facilities or kitchen help, which includes some trusted inmates.
Murphy said the jail garden, on a vacant lot north of the law enforcement center, had made a significant difference in food costs.
The garden also provides inmates being held on non-violent misdemeanors an opportunity for fresh air and many of them a chance to dine on fresh vegetables, which seldom has been a part of their diets.
Daily intake from the garden isn’t its only advantage.
“We’ve made our own ketchup from tomatoes grown there, as well as pickles from cucumbers and salsa and relishes” from a combination of produce, Murphy said. Last year the jail garden was supplemented by vegetables from corrections officer Patrick Cash’s plot at the Elm Creek Community Garden. “He had more than he could use and donated it,” he said.
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