MAY 14, 1996

RALEIGH - Working in a prison kitchen is one of the most demanding jobs for North Carolina prison inmates.

Each day, more than 2,000 inmates at 92 prisons prepare nearly 90,000 meals. Meals meet daily nutrition guidelines and the food costs an average of sixty-eight cents per meal.

"Working inmates in prison kitchens provides an important trade and develops job skills," said Correction Secretary Franklin Freeman. "Inmate labor allows us to run an efficient, cost-effective kitchen system."

By 4:00 AM, a squad of inmates are cracking eggs, sizzling bacon and stirring grits in the kitchen at Polk Youth Institution. They prepare a bag lunch with sandwiches for inmates leaving the prison. They also move food to be used for lunch from the freezer to the refrigerator.

Inmates due to transfer to another prison will be in the kitchen at 5:00 AM for breakfast. They eat and leave to prepare for their trip. After completing the count of inmates at 6:30 AM, the breakfast rush begins. Inmates make their way through the kitchen serving line and eat in the dining hall. By 7:30 AM, Polk's inmates have been fed and kitchen workers have begun scrubbing pots, wiping down tables and mopping floors to prepare for the next meal.

The 24 inmates in Polk's kitchen prepare more than 1,000 meals each day for the prison's 350 inmates. They work eight hour shifts that overlap. Several inmates work split shifts to meet the demands of the meal-time rush.

Experienced kitchen workers earn $1 a day. Others make 70 cents a day. The inmates are supervised by five correction food service officers who make sure sanitary procedures and food preparation guidelines are followed.

"Inmates learn a variety of skills working in prison kitchens," said Nancy Porter, state prison food service director. "They're taught to run an efficient, clean kitchen and to cook and bake from scratch for large numbers of people. They develop food service inventory and warehousing skills. They also learn to maintain and repair kitchen equipment."

Porter prepares seasonal menus so that prison kitchens prepare food in the same way and serve the same meals. Prisons have been encouraged to work inmates in gardens to supplement the menus with fresh vegetables.

Much of the food used in state prison kitchens is grown and processed by inmates. More food will be provided when two new prison work farms open. The Western Work Farm under construction in Caswell County will open later this year. The Eastern Work Farm under construction in Tyrrell County will open next year.

Chicken and Dumplings

86 pounds, 8 5/8 ounces of cut-up chicken; 34 pounds, 9 7/8 ounces of flour; 5 pounds, 12 1/4 ounces of shortening; 103 eggs; 1 gallon, 1 3/4 quarts of cold water; 1 cup, 3 ounces of reserved liquid and 1 ounce, 1 7/8 tablespoons of salt
1.Thaw and wash chickens. 5. Roll mixture very thin and cut into squares with a pizza cutter.
2. Place chicken in a suitable container; cover with hot water and bring to a boil. 6. Drop into boiling stock. Salt to taste. Cook until tender.
3. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes or until tender. Drain. Save liquid. 7. Remove meat from bones and cut up. Add to stock.
4. Mix flour, shortening and salt together. Combine flour mixture with egg yokes and water. Mix well. Serves 1.5 cup portions to 375 people.