In an average year, over 50,000 minors under the age of 18 are detained in one of the three juvenile detention halls, or sentenced to one of the 18 juvenile camps maintained by the Los Angeles County Probation Department. Pursuant to Penal Code Section 6030, the California State Board of Corrections sets forth minimum standards for local detention facilities and camps. These standards are contained in the California Code of Regulations, Title 24.
The Grand Jury sought assurance that the young inmates residing in these facilities received adequate nutrition and that the food service operations were carried out by the County Probation Department in compliance with applicable laws, regulations, and established policies. The first two visits to juvenile camps, during routine inspections by members of the Jails Committee, revealed evidence to justify an expanded investigation. Our concerns arose from the realization that the kitchens in these facilities were in such a state of disrepair that health and safety policies were not being met. A subcommittee was formed to make unannounced site visits and to perform close inspection of all camp kitchens, purchasing, and food preparation, as well as assessing the nutritional value of the food served to the inmate minors.
We found that all of the kitchens that are operated by a private vendor under contract with the County were well run and clean, and that food preparation was not a problem. However, where the facilities were operated by the County, the kitchen facilities were substandard and the food served was only minimally adequate.
The subcommittee conducted extensive interviews with camp directors, cooks, staff members, incarcerated minors, department bureau chiefs, and the County nutritionist. We reviewed menus, nutrition guidelines, budgets, and mandated regulations. Finally, we made site inspections of all camps for the purpose of seeing the food preparation facilities, as well as the cleanliness of the kitchens and the quality and quantity of the food served. Our goal was to observe and analyze conditions that would enable us to recommend improvements in the system and in the services the Department provides its youthful offenders.
Camp Inspection Visits
The following camps were visited:
Dorothy Kirby Center
In general, our investigation indicates that several camp kitchens are in serious need of major repair and renovation. We cite as examples our findings at the kitchen that serves Camp Holton in San Fernando, and the one that serves Camp Miller and Camp Kilpatrick in Malibu.
In this kitchen, the following observations were made:
In addition, there is inadequate electrical back-up, in case of power failure. Only a portable generator is currently available. The seat for a new generator has been built, but it is yet to be installed. We were advised that power failures occur frequently at this location.
Further, the boiler system is inadequate at this facility. It does not allow the minors to all shower at the same time. Some must wait an hour to shower, making them late for the evening meal.
Camps Miller & Kilpatrick
This is a kitchen that serves three meals per day to approximately 240-250 minors and 25 staff members at the two camps. At this location we found that:
We also noted that 30% of the grout was missing from the joints in the tile floor. It was explained to us that it had been missing for years. The tile is smooth and very slippery when wet---just an accident waiting to happen, and a possible lawsuit for the County. In addition, bacteria and vermin can get into the flooring cracks, which represents a real health problem.
In a subsequent meeting with managers in the Probation Department, thesubcommittee informed them of our observations regarding the kitchen at Camps Miller and Kilpatrick. When we revisited the facility we found that many positive changes had been made. For example, the freezer door, dishwasher, oven, and grill had been repaired. The hood above the stove and light fixtures had been cleaned. New beaters for the mixer and new pans for the kitchen were in use, and the air conditioners had been moved and covered, though not installed. However, while there had been talk of a new floor, no work had begun. No mats were on the floor and it was still slick and dangerous.
It is recommended that the Probation Department:
1. Repair or replace the dishwasher, grills, and ice machine.
2. Repair the heater on the large steam pot.
3. Replace or properly re-install the insulation seal on the freezer door.
Camps Miller & Kilpatrick
1. Install new flooring in all the kitchen areas. If the same type of tile is used, then mats should be furnished to make the floor safe to walk on.
2. Replace broken glass in windows.
3. Clear the garbage disposal line and install a new pipe. The walls around the pipeline should be sealed so that insects and animals cannot enter the kitchen.
4. Install a new "sneeze guard" on the serving cart and regularly clean the metal unit on the cart which holds the serving containers.
5. Install cooling units, since kitchen temperatures during the summer often reach 120-130 degrees. Available units have been described as being too large to be placed on top of the buildings, but at least some cooling units should be installed as soon as possible.
The focus of our food investigation was at Camp Afflerbaugh in LaVerne. This camp is located in the foothills of the Angeles National Forest. Since the camp is small, all cooking is done on site. The food was minimally adequate, but not abundant, and that concerned the subcommittee. The staff confirmed that on occasion, the food order that is delivered is not sufficient to provide second helpings.
Further, while the menus are carefully planned by a food consultant, meal items often are changed because inventory is not available when needed. This occurs several days a week.
The average cost of a meal provided at the camps is $1.34. The following figures are drawn from the County's departmental meal cost analysis:
Raw Food Costs (Per Meal Per Person
Average Breakfast Cost
Average Lunch Cost
Average Dinner Cost
Average Meal Cost
Most of the food is paid for by the Federal Government through two programs: The National School Breakfast Program and the National School Lunch Program.
Allotment from Federal Government (Per Meal, Per Person)
National School Breakfast Program
National School Lunch Program
U.S.D.A. Commodities Entitlement (lunch)
The total commodity value of $3.3875 covers 100% of the minor's breakfast and lunch cost, and 52% of the cost of the evening meal. This means that the County picks up 48% (about $0.66) of one meal per day (dinner) and pays nothing for breakfast or lunch.
These figures do not reflect salaries and benefits for the chefs, and when these are calculated, it is evident that the County pays only $1.00 per inmate per day for food.
The camps with a larger population of inmates are serviced by an outside food service contractor. It stands to reason that some economies of scale exist and that these larger camps can provide greater quality and quantity of food on the same budget than the smaller camps like Afflerbaugh, Holton, Miller and Kilpatrick are able to provide. However, this disparity is not taken into account by the County when making appropriations for food service in the smaller camps.
Length of Time Between Meals
According to those preparing and serving the food, meals are served as follows:
Breakfast 6:30 a.m.
Lunch 12:00 noon
Dinner 5:00 p.m.
The subcommittee found that due to work detail schedules, some minors went 12 to 14 hours between meals. The Probation Department indicated that it is their policy that juveniles must go no longer that 14 hours without nourishment. In addition, it is the policy that a nutritious snack be offered during the initial intake process. In no instance did we find a snack offered at any time of the day. As a result, a directive was sent from the Probation Department in February 1999, specifying that snacks will be served beginning in March 1999.
Evaluation of Menus
Menus are prepared and sent to all the camps and juvenile halls for use that given week. A review of the menus for the month of May 1999, reflects that they comply with the parameters established by State law. The quality and variety range from good in some cases to inadequate in others. Our research shows that the menus are recycled and used again another week with a different date, and that it is up to each cook to substitute appropriate selections from their food inventory. The menus cannot be served as prescribed, because the available commodities are hit and miss, unknown ahead of time, and often not consistent with what is specified in the menu. The delivery of services is fragmented, hence, less effective.
Menus reflect little regard for the cultural background of the minors. We noted, for example, that on May 5 (Cinco de Mayo) no apparent thought was given to this holiday even though 65% of the camp population is Hispanic.
Sweet and Sour Pork
Cream of Wheat
Cabbage, Apple Salad
Tossed Green Salad
As the menu for that day shows, tuna cakes and sweet and sour pork were to be served. This menu sample was provided by the Los Angeles County Nutritionist.
It is recommended that the Probation Department:
1. Follow menu guidelines set forth by the School Lunch Program and Titles 15 and 24 and inspect the camp kitchens on a frequent basis. This would provide an opportunity to improve the health and nutrition status of detained minors, and to determine if additional services are needed.
2. Provide better training for all camp cooks, especially in the areas of food ordering, utilizing U.S.D.A. commodities in every meal possible, and following set guidelines and menus when preparing the food.
3. Establish better communication with cooks and vendors, (perhaps with the help of computers to share up-to-date information on food inventories, commodity deliveries, etc.) to assure that nutritional needs are being met adequately and to improve the quality of food at each small camp.
4. Follow up continuously to confirm that the food served on any given day, reflects the provided menu and inventory received for that week.
5. Revise schedules so that there is no interval of more than 10-12 hours when the juveniles do not receive some food and drink.