MORGAN COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – The cost of food is rising nationwide and one local jail, responsible for feeding hundreds has been feeling the impact.
The Morgan County Jail feeds 600 inmates, three meals a day, seven days a week. The state budgets them $2.25 daily per inmate to make that happen.
Feeding inmates at that rate has gotten more challenging since food prices began to rise in 2021.
“We were up to 36% in food costs for 2021 and our year start over in October,” Morgan County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Mike Swafford told News 19. “All of it increased, some more than others. It’s the same thing people deal with at home. Everything costs more.”
Swafford said good management in 2019 and 2020 left a surplus in their food “rainy day fund” which they’ve been relying on to help during these more expensive months, but it’s not a long-term solution.
“We used most of our rainy day fund, 40% of it in 2021. We do have some cushion but that’s going to quickly disappear at the rate that we’re going right now,” Swafford explained.
According to Swafford, a hurting supply chain is an added obstacle now with a shortage in certain products and brands. He said they’re often forced to turn to more expensive alternatives in an effort to meet nutritional requirements.
“For example, protein, tuna, is a protein we can buy a lot of and it’s cheaper. Unfortunately, times throughout the past few months, we’ve been unable to get tuna. So that has forced us to go and rely more heavily on chicken, which is still a good protein, it’s fine, but as far as cost goes, its more expensive,” he said.
Swafford said they make it work but discussions are happening now about what to do in case prices don’t level out in the coming months.
“At some point, it’s either going to be talking to the state about the allotment that they give us to pay for the food or it’s going to fall back on the taxpayers of Morgan County. Whether it comes from the county commission or some other avenue.” Swafford said. “At the end of the day, we still have to feed the inmates regardless of price, regardless of supply.”
Swafford says periodically they’ll get donations from stores in the area with leftover breads or sweets. He said that helps add variety and savings for the week.