Prison Inmates Prepare for Future by Cooking for Soldiers and Others

Ryan HIcks with U.S. Foods instructs inmates on flat grill

State prison inmates are getting some valuable on the job training at the National Guard Joint Force Headquarters dining facility that is hoped to be a recipe for success. The inmates are taking part in the Department of Public Safety's food and nutrition service assistant apprenticeship program. The National Guard and the department teamed up to offer breakfast and lunch meals for purchase by soldiers, state and federal employees that work in the Joint Force Headquarters (JFHQ.)          

“As part of the department’s public safety mission, inmates are given a chance to learn valuable job skills they can use to help them find employment upon release,” Public Safety Secretary Frank Perry said. “Those who are gainfully employed upon release are less likely to return to prison.” 

The ten offender trainees, chosen to participate in the program at Johnston Correctional Institution in Smithfield, dedicate a year working towards earning the apprenticeship. The program is backed by the U.S. Department of Labor and N.C. Department of Commerce. 

Certified correctional food service employees provide the training that prepares the inmates for a potential career in culinary arts. As part of the training, the inmates work in a variety of roles in the dining facility to include cook, baker, dining room attendant and food line manager. The inmates also learn about nutrition, food safety and sanitation, as well as interviewing and resume skills.

"This is state interagency teamwork at its best resulting in a low-cost option and benefit for the JFHQ complex and provides excellent meal options for the state and federal employees without them having to leave the building," said Gary Allen, deputy director, NCNG. "Most importantly this program provides a unique training and certification opportunity for our state's inmates that could lead to future employment."

Menu prices range from about $2 for breakfast biscuits to between $3-5 for sandwiches, wraps and lunch entrées with a side order and beverage. Dining facility hours are 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and on Friday breakfast and grab and go items are available from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. 

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