VADOC Food Operations Mobilization Unit Displays Response Capabilities

By CN Staff

BLAND, Va.—As several Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) employees and partner agencies completed a full-scale emergency exercise at Bland Correctional Center, the VADOC’s Food Operations Mobilization Unit (FOMU) tested its emergency response capabilities.

The FOMU fed all participants and inmates on site during the May 29 event.

“This was a great success for the Food Operations Mobilization Unit,” said VADOC Director of Food Services Mark Engelke. “We showed that we’re ready and able to deliver on a moment’s notice.”

The Food Operations Mobilization Unit stands ready to deliver hot meals within 16 hours anywhere in Virginia. If there are multiple emergency food situations, VADOC can deploy up to three different responses.

On May 29, a total of 24 of the FOMU’s 42 members worked with the Bland food service staff to deliver three meals: breakfast, lunch, and dinner – preparing 350 meals, plus snacks to feed corrections team members and emergency exercise participants. The FOMU team also provided two meals for the inmates inside Bland CC, 650 each for lunch and dinner.

It was nothing unusual for the Food Services Unit, which provides more than 80,000 meals to VADOC staff and inmates daily.

A core team of 12 Food Service Unit staff direct, support and review facility food service operations that involve 300 food service staff and 3,400 food service inmate employees in the Department’s major institutions, correctional units, work centers, and community corrections alternative programs.

VADOC’s food service staff receives annual training at the Food Service Training Academy at Beaumont Correctional Center, which keeps staff updated on policies and procedures, nutritional requirements, and sanitation. They also learn about menu development, containing food cost, developing recipes, equipment usage, religious diets, and special diets while gaining hands-on training, and professional development.

For inmates, the Department offers 21 culinary arts programs that have National Restaurant Association certifications in ServSafe, Foundations of Culinary Arts, and Manage First. Since ServSafe’s implementation in May 2011, more than 17,300 inmates have received certification in food safety.

The Department also offers inmates a wealth of food service on-the-job training, especially opportunities at both the Academy for Staff Development in Crozier and the Almost Home Café at VADOC’s Richmond headquarters. Inmates receive close supervision as they use commercial food service equipment and perform a variety of roles including chef, sous chef, hostess, waiter, cashier, caterer, and baker.

Inmates also can hone their skills in food service equipment refurbishing at Bland Correctional Center, where trained inmate technicians work to keep food service equipment operational, gaining valuable reentry skills in the process.