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TRUMBULL COUNTY Broccoli glop causes a stir

By John Goodall

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

After seeing the casserole, commissioners suggested discussion between the juvenile justice center and the adult jail.
WARREN -- The children at the Trumbull County Juvenile Justice Center wouldn't eat their broccoli casserole.
If that is indeed what it was.
A plan to save taxpayer money by having juvenile inmates' meals prepared in the county jail kitchen became mired in a mass of cheesy glop Thursday.
The meals -- for which the JJC is charged $1 each -- ignited the children's outrage and prompted juvenile Judge Pamela Rintala to order food from a Burger King restaurant.
"They need nutritious meals," the judge said. "Most of them did not even touch this."
Rintala said she decided to foot the bill for the fast-food lunch for the 50 children because she felt bad for them. "I want them to eat," she said.
Thursday's meal was supposed to be hot dogs, said a justice center employee, who delivered a sample to county commissioners.
The jail substituted with the broccoli casserole.
The cream-colored concoction was a hit with the grown-up inmates, said Ernie Cook, chief deputy.
"It is called broccoli cheddar casserole, and it is good," Cook said. "We served 327 of them today and didn't get any complaints."
Children may be fussier than adult inmates, Cook acknowledged.
"It looked a little shady," he said. "You know kids. If you offer them filet mignon or McDonald's, they will take McDonald's."
After Cook talked to Judge Rintala, he decided to try the lunch.
"I liked it and I ate all of mine," he said.
Since November, meals for JJC inmates have been cooked at the county jail and delivered hot.
The JJC does not have a full kitchen and, in the past, the facility had to rely on food that just needed to be heated.
The new arrangement is supposed to provide more nutritious meals at a savings of about $5,000 a year.
After seeing the casserole in question, commissioners suggested further discussion between officials at the two lockups.
"You need a meeting of the cooks," said Commissioner Michael O'Brien.
Jail officials said in the future they will make more "children friendly" meals, such as hot dogs and chicken nuggets.