Tim MacDonald Havre Daily News email@example.com
A persistent rumor brought to the attention of the Havre Daily News has proven to be just that a persistent rumor. It seems to be the belief of a number of people in the community that the contract to serve meals to the inmates at the Hill County Correctional Facility has been wrenched from the hands of the Havre Senior Citizens’ Center. A round-table discussion at the County Commissioner’s meeting Monday proved that nothing could be further from the truth. Attendants at the meeting included Evelyn Harstjed who heads up the Senior Citizens Center; Hill County Sheriff Gary Spyden, Cindy Chagnan of the CBM Company, which presently serves the meals at the correctional facility; and the three County Commissioners Kathy Bessette, Doug Kaercher and Mike Anderson. The original plan to bring CBM food service to Havre included the Senior Citizen’s Center and the jail. It was instituted after a number of meetings about the matter in July of this year, but after several months the seniors were unhappy with the meals and wanted to return to the “home cooked” meals the Center had provided. “We allowed the seniors to vote as to whether they wanted to continue with the CBM meals or to return to the old method. The vote was 86 to 12 in favor of the way we were doing things before,” she said. In order to serve the jail the Senior Citizens food service had to prepare three meals a day Seven days a week. To serve the seniors they only serve a lunch five days a week and prepare “Meals on Wheels” to shut-ins by also pre-preparing weekend meals. “It really takes a lot of pressure off of us. We are really not in a profit-making situation,” Harstjed said. “That could disqualify us from some federal funding.” According to Chagnan, CBM, out of South Dakota, specializes in correctional facility meals. The meals are prepared here in Havre, and besides Chagnan, there are three full-time employees at the local facility. The meals for the senior citizens were the first time the company had attempted ventures outside correctional institutional field. Chagnan didn’t know how many facilities were served in Montana; but, according to Kaercher, they had contacted jails in Kalispell and Polson where CBM served meals while debating whether to hire the company. “We are very happy with the service,” Sheriff Spyden said. “We do not have to worry about any nutritional liability. We don’t have to hire anyone else to prepare meals, we are already strapped for help; and all of the needs of the inmates, as far as the ACLU is concerned, are met. “We also provide special meals for religious diets, such as Moslems who don’t eat pork for instance; or special health needs such as diabetics,” Chagnan said. Bessette, who arranged the round-table discussion, said that the commissioners had about 20 meetings where hiring the food service was discussed, then CBM was hired on a trial basis. When they didn’t meet the needs of the senior citizens they were released from that duty. “This is a community that cares very much about their seniors, and we want to give them the best we can provide,” She said. Harstjed said that the rumors may have started with the raising of the suggested donation per meal from $3.50 to $4.00. “Some people apparently thought this was because of the loss of the jail contract,” she said. “Actually, just like everyplace else, it was because of rising food costs.” The Senior Center also provides entertainment and a place for seniors to meet socially. All services are on a sliding scale, so seniors may partake of the meals and other services and spend only what they can afford. Government commodity foods are also distributed through the center to those who qualify.