Penny wise, pound foolish?

Holland, Daniel Leo

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Penny Wise - Pound Foolish? There was a time not too long ago, where at the Massachusetts Correctional facility at Norfolk there was a focus on educating the inmate population about the benefits of exercise, weight loss and healthy food choices. But with budget cuts and changes to the inmate diet we are sadly reminded by daily medical codes of inmate chest pains that these days may be far behind us. One could mistakenly assume that the concept of corrections in this Commonwealth would include promoting and teaching healthy food choices. Or, at the very least - that not making healthy choices could lead to heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and other chronic ailments. A few years ago it was commonplace to see health seminars and other such programs offered to the inmate population. The topics and programs varied ranging from dental care, eye care, joint and back pain, to heart disease, diabetes, etc. There was a large focus on diet and exercise where doctors, nurses, and dietitians spoke. We were taught about the many benefits of fiber, antioxidents, and fruits and veggies. We were also taught about the horrors of transfats, hydrogenated, and partially hydrogenated oils, and the dangers of a diet high in carbs and saturated fats. There was actually a program nick-named "fat camp" where following lectures, men were weighed and their progress tracked. Perhaps this was because someone realized that this small investment in such programs (and enforcing 100% adherence to the dietitian approved menu/diet/recipes) outweighed the long term costs and the burden placed on society by men leaving prison with such chronic ailments associated with obesity and an unhealthy diet. Moving ahead to July 2015 such health programs/seminars simply no longer exist and cheap "alternatives" have been incorporated into the inmate diet three to four time a week. These alternatives include ice cream, potato chips, [fat laden] mac & cheese, [preservative spiked] imitation seafood salad... First, it should be pointed out that the diet for the general population has been deemed a "heart healthy" diet by a department dietitian and it is supposed to satisify the needs of the general population including prediabetics, those with border-line hypertension, etc. Those with diabetes, which there are too many, are offered a therapeutic diet which is prescribed by the medical department. About 3% of the DOC budget is allotted for inmate food. A man can be fed for under $2.00 a day when the approved menu and recipes are followed. The menu which is listed on the DOC's web site is the same used in each facility. There are corresponding data work sheets which break down and calculate the calorie and nutritional daily requirements of each meal. The recipes can not be any more specific as they are described down to the brand, quality and amount of ingredients to be used. The Food Services Policy, 103 DOC 760., clearly details the obligations of the Commissioner, Superintendents, State Food Services Director, dietitians, and finally the facility Food Services Director ("FSD") with respect to providing nutritionally adequate meals. So one has to ask: how such unhealthy foods are being served to a population living an overly sedentary life style? First, there is no oversight, or enforcement after the department dietitian approves the menu for the year. This enables the FSD to replace approved foods with sub-par products, i.e., processed turkey and meatballs instead of what a dietitian factored into a man's nutritional needs. Secondly, there are no clear substitutional guidelines per policy. But, according to answers given in inmate grievances, these changes are not substitutions - but alternatives - and a man has the right to request that the kitchen send the healthy menu item, which is almost never available. Furthermore, responses explain that these alternatives are agreed upon by the FSD and a small number of inmates. If I didn't know better I would opt for soda, cake and ice cream for every meal. Unfortunately, it appears a large majority of men do not know better. Well, apparently the alternative to following policy and menu recipes, designed to be nutritionally adequate, is to keep everyone fat and happy while they are here. Then, release everyone with a Mass Health Card and let society continue to foot the bill for the costs of diabetes, heart disease, etc... Save pennies, add pounds and waste dollars! By Daniel Leo Holland

Author: Holland, Daniel Leo

Author Location: Massachusetts

Date: July 6, 2017

Genre: Essay

Extent: 1 pages

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