Ohio prisons agency says private food vendor exceeded cost savings expectations in contract

Ohio's contract with a prison food vendor has saved taxpayers more than expected and resulted in relatively few problems, the state said Friday in a review of the company's performance following criticism over the contract last year.

Many problems tied to Philadelphia-based Aramark Correctional Services' contract in Ohio, which included understaffing, running out of food, and maggots near food prep areas, were also common when food services were state-operated, the state said.

Aramark is now serving 50 million meals each year with fewer than five daily documented concerns, according to the review provided to The Associated Press through a records request.

"The contract has exceeded financial expectations as it relates to savings and the majority of the prisons are experiencing few, if any incidents," said the review by the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

The state says Aramark is on track to save $17 million this year, compared to original estimates of $14 million annual savings.

Aramark said the report reflects its efforts to provide the state "with the services it needs while delivering taxpayer savings."

The state has recommended a two-year contract renewal that would take effect later this year.

The prisons agency last year levied $272,000 in fines on Aramark for contract violations, including running out of main courses, understaffing, inappropriate relationships between inmates and Aramark employees and a few cases of maggots near food preparation areas.

The company's performance in Michigan also has been under scrutiny over misconduct by some of its employees and food contamination issues.

Aramark has significantly improved its operations and will continue to undergo close monitoring, the state has said. The current two-year contract ends June 30.

Parts of the fines were spent on training to ensure Aramark complies with its contract. The company also agreed to an eight-hour food service training program for company supervisors, and to send supervisors to a six-day prisons training academy.