When jail administrators provide their officers with healthy food options, they are contributing to their officers' mental health and boosting morale and safety within the jail. 

Correctional officers (CO's) work long days, and some days they're tasked with a double shift. Sometimes, working double shifts four days in a row doesn't leave a lot of time to grocery shop and prepare filling and nutritious snacks and meals. Therefore they are stuck with chips, chocolate bars and sugary drinks found in the vending machine and ordering unhealthy takeout or a greasy pizza over lunch. Enhancing the work environment to be healthier benefits correctional officers, but it also improves institutional safety and job performance. During long shifts, CO's must have access to food that keeps them mentally sharp and energized to handle any situation or problem that comes their way.

healthy food
vending machine

A study shows that one of the most stress-inducing factors for CO's is not receiving adequate support from their administration [1]. An excellent way for jail administrators to show their support for CO's is to add vending machines or a lunch program featuring healthy options to their facilities. This addition won't only improve a CO's physical and mental health but also shows a concern for their wellbeing. Providing healthy options helps curate a healthier CO population, both mentally and physically, while showing them that the administration has their best interest in mind. 

Correctional officers are the MVPs in a facility. Especially in this post-pandemic world where retention has been challenging, jail administrators need to recognize how this investment can retain good staff and turn a sometimes hostile work environment into a better situation for all. This investment in making healthy food accessible to officers will have long term effects on the facilities bottom line as healthier and happier CO's means fewer sick days, less turnover, and fewer costs associated with healthcare. 
So jail administrators and decision makers, by developing a wellness committee and finding out what your officers need to excel on the job, you are not only making their jobs easier but yours as well.


Next: The Importance of Cardio Equipment in Prison


References:
Obidoa C, Reeves D, Warren N, Reisine S, Cherniack M.  (2011). Depression and work family conflict among corrections officers. Journal of Occupational Environmental Medicine, 53:1294–1301.