Food fight: Aramark quits as prison vendor
Aramark, the huge national food vendor that has been fined repeatedly by the Florida Department of Corrections for contract violations, has told the state it will end their contentious six-year relationship and serve its last meal to the last inmate on Jan. 9, 2009. The action comes as the prison agency is inviting bids from rival food-service firms and considering doing the cooking in-house, with state employees supervising inmates.
In a letter dated Sept. 8 to the state, Aramark Correctional Services President Tim Campbell cited food cost inflation as leading to an "unsustainable financial position" for his company. At the same time, as prison officials demand menu changes designed to improve quality while cutting costs, Campbell cited confidentiality provisions required under Florida's competitive bidding laws: "We have lost our ability to meaningfully discuss possible alternatives."
Aramark's brand is widely known across the country at major-league baseball parks and Republican political conventions. The Aramark deal is the latest privatization venture undertaken by former Gov. Jeb Bush that appears headed for an unsatisfactory ending.
Not everyone has been critical of Aramark's performance. Check out this letter written last January by House Speaker Marco Rubio, calling Aramark "a company of the highest integrity." (The Coral Gables lobbyist Courtney Cunningham was a member of Aramark's lobbying team when the firm landed the contract in 2001).