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United Way of Lancaster County


Commissioners approve County Prison food contract, wage increases for staff

Lancaster County Prison. (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)

Inmates at Lancaster County Prison will be getting more fruit in their diets, a change made in response to concerns raised by the public at Prison Board meetings.

At their meeting Wednesday morning, the county commissioners approved a new contract with food service vendor Aramark Correctional Services. Under its terms, Aramark will begin providing seven servings of fruit a week, up from two, Deputy Warden Joe Shiffer said.

“We took community input,” he told the Prison Board at its Jan. 19 meeting.

Aramark will continue to offer 14 servings of vegetables a week as part of a 3,000-calorie-per-meal diet. Meal plans are monitored by a certified dietician and meet U.S. Department of Agriculture standards, Shiffer said.

The only other change of any note is kitchen staffing, Shiffer said: It was a little tight, so it is being increased from six full-time and one part-time employees to eight full-timers.

The new contract term begins in March and runs through February 2025, with two optional one-year extensions. The cost for the two-year base period is $3.145 million, which is up 20.6% over the existing contract.

The cost per meal is $1.495 the first year and $1.57 the second year, the county’s lead senior buyer, Carolyn Gabriel, said.

Fourteen food service vendors downloaded the county’s invitation to bid, Gabriel said. Two ultimately submitted a bid, Aramark and Trinity Services Group, and Aramark’s was the lower of the two.

Wage increases

Also Wednesday, the commissioners approved pay increases for staff at the County Prison and the Youth Intervention Center.

Corrections officers’ starting wages will now be $25.50 an hour, among the highest in the region. As recently as 2021, they had been among the lowest, at $18.50.

Those low wages, along with the challenges of the pandemic, helped drive an acute and unprecedented staffing shortage, Warden Cheryl Steberger said at the time. She advocated for a substantial increase, along with instituting hiring and retention bonuses.

The wage hikes and bonuses implemented since then have been effective, according to Steberger’s subsequent reports to the Prison Board, leading to a steady increase in new hires and a corresponding reduction in open positions.