Despite health and safety violations plaguing Aramark’s history with the Ohio’s prison system, the state is looking to renew its contract with the food vendor in the spring.
Although a new contract can’t be signed until Apr. 1, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction requested to continue its work with Aramark in the fall of 2014, according to a Cincinnatti Enquirer article.
Aramark was criticized last summer after receiving sub-par ratings and accusations of staffing shortages and food safety concerns. In some instances, mice or mice feces were found near food, and in one case, maggots were reported in “a few institutions,” according to a Columbus Dispatch article.
“After almost four decades in the corrections business, we fully understand the paramount importance of safety and security,” said Karen Cutler, director of corporate communications at Aramark in an email. “That’s why we share the ODRC’s zero tolerance for inappropriate conduct. We worked with ODRC to increase our training efforts around employee conduct as evidenced by the significant reduction in the number of employee related issues.”
JoEllen Smith, spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said the reason Aramark might be receiving so much heat in comparison to previous food operations is because the department implemented more oversight when the company acquired its contract with the state.
“Issues were experienced in food service operations prior to the Aramark contract, but before September 8, 2013, no formal monitoring system existed,” Smith said. “Because no formal monitoring system existed, a direct comparison of incident levels is not possible.”
The Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, a union that previously was contracted by the state to do Aramark’s current job, is trying to outbid Aramark for a new contract, but according the Enquirer article, they have historically been unable to beat Aramark’s savings.
When Aramark won its bid in 2013, about 340 workers were transferred to other positions and 17 people lost their jobs, according to the Dispatch article.
Taxpayer savings is one benefit Ohio has received from partnering with Aramark, Smith said, noting that Ohio is projected to save $14 million per year by outsourcing food services.
“DRC outsourced the daily operations of food service to Aramark for reasons of economy,” Smith said. “The contract has exceeded financial expectations as it relates to savings and the majority of the prisons are experiencing few if any incidents.”
Cutler said many of Aramark’s positive practices have been overlooked by the media, saying that the company has “successfully partnered with 40 municipal prisons in Ohio for decades without any publicity.”