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Ohio county jail is lactose intolerant

By Rick Armon, Akron Beacon Journal –

AKRON, Ohio — Milk moustaches soon will be a thing of the past at the Summit County Jail.

The county will stop serving milk to inmates starting Sunday as a way to cut costs. Inmates will receive a powdered breakfast drink instead.

The move is expected to save about $10,000 a year.

County officials say the powder, which is mixed with water, is tasty and nutritious.

“I drank it myself and it tastes like a vanilla milkshake,” jail Administrator Gary James said. “It has that sweetness to it. It’s actually pretty good.”

Summit is the second county jail in the Akron area to do away with milk as a way to save money. Stark County made the same move.

Faced with lower tax revenue and budget cuts, the Summit County Sheriff’s Office renegotiated its contract with Aramark, which provides food service for the facility. Dumping milk provided extra savings.

Overall, the county is saving about $90,000 this year with the new Aramark deal.

The county must look for creative ways to cut costs so it doesn’t lay off workers, James said. The jail holds more than 600 inmates.

Aramark, which provides food service at more than 500 correctional facilities in North America, could not be reached for comment about the decision.

“It’s happening all over the country off and on,” said Fred Wilson, director of operations for the National Sheriffs’ Association in Alexandria, Va. “There’s not this huge wave coming on. But it’s something (sheriffs) are looking at as they are getting more cost-conscious.”

One of the biggest reasons involves the fact milk spoils and powder doesn’t, he said.

“You’re not having milk go bad,” Wilson said. “That’s a big cost saver.”

Several other Akron-area counties said they have no plans to drop milk. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction runs a dairy farm to handle its own milk needs.

Stark County dumped milk years ago. Chief Deputy Michael McDonald said the county saved about $62,000 a year.

The cost savings made the decision “a no-brainer for me,” he said, adding that he didn’t have a lot of sympathy for the inmates.

“These people aren’t making sure their children have milk, so I don’t care if they have milk,” he said.

The county took some public criticism that it wasn’t treating the inmates humanely. But McDonald said many inmates gain weight while at the jail and “probably eat better here than on occasion at home.”

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