WILMINGTON, Del. — The Delaware Department of Correction unveiled the new 32,000-square-foot kitchen at Howard R. Young Correctional Institution in Wilmington earlier this month. While the kitchen still requires some last-minute touches and health-code approvals, it will be ready to cook the approximately 5,100 meals a day required by the institution in the next month or two.
The goal of the project was to build a new kitchen that was sufficient for the institution’s needs, said Michael Knight, the facility’s food service manager. The original correctional institution was built in 1982 to accommodate 360 inmates and was expanded to increase capacity to 1,180 inmates. However, it still averages a population of about 1,500 inmates, according to Delaware Public Media. The existing kitchen was also designed more than 20 years ago with the ability to cook for only 500 inmates, even though the kitchen staff is cooking for up to 1,800 inmates, Knight said.
The $26.2 million kitchen is now designed to help accommodate that growing population, as well as to help improve the flow of food. Updates include a new training area for offenders and staff, a new sallyport entrance, security cameras, alarm systems, and space for a recycling program, storage and new equipment such as a blast chiller, which helps cool food rapidly.
The kitchen staff had input on the type of equipment that they wanted as well as some key design elements such as how they wanted to serve the food. For instance, the kitchen now has a tray assembly line so that kitchen staff can individually portion the food, which will help reduce waste by not sending out bulk portions, Knight said. Once the food is portioned out, security will hand the tray of food to each inmate, creating a more efficient flow for the process.
“The space is also designed for food safety,” Knight said. “The design from the walk-ins to the freezers to the cooking station lines up. In the older kitchen, those stations didn’t exactly protect the food. Our staff was critical in making sure that layout was appropriate to the point of delivery.”
The kitchen operates with 13 food service staff, which includes 10 correctional food service specialists, two correctional food service supervisors and one correctional food service director. An average of 60 offenders work in the kitchen daily in various job assignments, including everything from head cook to dishwasher. Offenders receive food service training from the correctional food service staff, which follows the National Restaurant Association’s standards for safety.
The Food Service Unit serves a regular four-cycle rotating menu in addition to therapeutic meals that are medically described. At the unveiling, the menu consisted of baked fish, pinto beans, collard greens, vanilla pudding, bread, tartar sauce and a drink. When it officially opens, the kitchen will operate from 4 a.m. to 7 p.m., with each meal taking about two hours to feed the entire population.
“I’m excited for the staff that is working in the facility because this kitchen is much more efficient; it’ll be accessible for them,” Knight said.
Middletown, Del.-based RG Architects LLC served as the architect on the project, while locally based Nason Construction Inc. served as the construction manager. Construction on the project began in January 2012 and was completed in August.