DENVER (CBS4) – Denver City Council voted 9-2 on Monday night to approve a $9 million agreement between the city and Aramark, a private company that provides food services for jails and prisons. The two-year contract will begin on July 1 with the option for three additional one-year extensions.

(credit: CBS)

Last week, the Denver Sheriff Department defended its decision to hire Aramark after a report by the Denver Post highlighted inmate complaints about food quality in other counties. In a 2019 lawsuit, an Arapahoe County inmate claimed they were underfed by Aramark and in December, a Jefferson County inmate claimed they found metal shavings in a brownie.

In a statement to CBS4, Aramark said, “allegations included in inmate lawsuits do not accurately represent the work of our people or the quality of what we provide to those we serve.”

(credit: CBS)

Mississippi prisons ended their contract with Aramark in April. An attorney representing 230 inmates said food at the Mississippi State Penitentiary was often “spoiled, rotten, molded or uncooked” and that portion sizes were too small. In Michigan, Maggots were reportedly found twice in a prison’s food service area in 2014.

“Aramark serves over 400 correctional facilities around the country and we’ve heard about some serious problems in some of them,” said Councilman Kevin Flynn. “I don’t want to be one of those that has the complaints. I want to make sure we have a mechanism in place to terminate the contract in case there is a breach.”

Councilman Kevin Flynn (credit: CBS)

Flynn voted in favor of the resolution after an attorney confirmed the city could terminate the contract with Aramark if the company failed to meet the standards outlined in the agreement. Councilwomen Candi CdeBaca and Amanda Sawyer were the two no votes against the contract.

DSD says the contract with Aramark is needed because fewer low-security inmates are eligible to work in jail kitchens. The sheriff’s department says the decline is due to sentencing trends during the COVID-19 pandemic.

(credit: Denver Public Safety)

“Sheriff Diggins and Chief Line are confident that Aramark, a company that offers food services in 22 countries and about 400 domestic clients, will provide quality meals to the people in our custody and our staff,” stated the Denver Sheriff Department. “We have safeguards in place to ensure this occurs and look forward to a successful transition.”

Chief Vincent Line will oversee Aramark’s food service operations at the Denver jails. The company is required to comply with Denver Food Establishment Regulations and regular city health inspections. DSD inmates can also file complaints about food service through the department’s Grievance and Incident Review Team.

“It’s not uncommon for us to get complaints from those in our care about either the quantities, if they believe the quantities are too small, or perhaps they believe their meal was too cold,” said Chief Line during Monday night’s meeting.

Vincent Line, Chief of Operations at Denver Sheriff Department (credit: CBS)

The sheriff department says it has voluntary accreditations with the American Correctional Association and National Commission on Corrections Healthcare. According to documents, the department plans to hire Steritech to conduct a third-party food safety audit each year.