In Jail Kitchen, Fairfax Inmates Gain Marketable Skills

Six inmates hold their ServSafe certificates with Aramark and Sheriff's Office staff

July 2, 2019

“Having a source of income is essential for anyone to live in our community and succeed,” said Fairfax County Sheriff Stacey Kincaid. “Our goal in the Adult Detention Center is to give inmates the education and skills they need to increase their marketability for when they are released.”

More than 50 inmates voluntarily work in the ADC kitchen, preparing and delivering three meals a day for about 900 inmates. The Sheriff’s Office is responsible for ensuring that all inmates are provided a nutritionally adequate diet with provisions for medical, dental and religious modifications.

Two or three times per year, a select group of inmates on the kitchen crew can enroll in ServSafe, a nationally recognized food service manager certification program. The ADC’s food service contractor, Aramark, provides four weeks of instruction in the kitchen and an adjacent classroom. The course book and test are offered in both English and Spanish. The program is supported by revenue the Sheriff’s Office generates from commissary sales.

The ServSafe class covers the flow of food from the time of purchase until the meals reach the consumers’ tables. Topics include microorganisms that cause food borne-illnesses, proper food storage, the cleaning and sanitizing of the kitchen and utensils, and ways to improve communication among kitchen staff.

This June, eight inmates completed the ServSafe class and passed the certification test. Having the certification improves a person’s chances of securing a position beyond entry level in the food service industry.

Inmate Kirkland has worked in the ADC kitchen for six months. “I signed up for the kitchen to gain responsibility while doing my time,” he said. “It’s hard work but having this much responsibility is preparing me for when I leave. I’m forming a good habit.”

Since the Sheriff’s Office launched the ServSafe program in 2008, more than 150 inmates have earned food service manager certification. ServSafe is an education program created by the National Restaurant Association for those working in food service, specifically managers and other leaders.

About the Author

Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.