Oversight of prison food deal is essential

The most unappetizing story of the year so far has to be the discovery of fly larvae in food at four Ohio prisons. A spokeswoman for Aramark Correctional Services, which prepares and serves food at all 28 of Ohio’s prisons, has called the reports part of an “ongoing political and media circus about anti-privatization,” according to The Plain Dealer. But the headlines obviously would have been just as numerous, if not more so, if state employees still were providing food service for Ohio’s prisons, as they did until last fall.

That is when Aramark began a two-year, $110 million contract to supply food to the prisons, allowing the state to save about $28 million over that period. Prison officials have said they were spending about half their annual $1.56 million budget on food services. …

The state already has fined the company more than $142,000 for failing to hire the number of employees stipulated in the contract. The latest incidents reinforce the fact that if this experiment is going to work, oversight is key.