Not the ‘slop on bread’ inmates expect

Michelle Park

Mike’s Place cooks meals for Kent PD

Detention Officer Troy Loomis prepares dinner he picked up from Mike’s Place Restaurant for prisoners who are spending the night in jail. Loomis has been a detention officer for three years and enjoys dealing with the prisoners. A Kent State alumni who gr

Credit: Andrew popik

On a wall in Mike’s Place Restaurant in Kent, a pink, flowered dress hangs in a glass showcase with a framed page below it. The page tells a tale about how Mike, wearing the dress, hired his employees while visiting a bar named Home.

Another part of it reads: “Employees hired, Mike left ‘Home’ in his dress, jubilantly dancing down the street. Kent’s police, not sharing in the enthusiasm, detained him in the Kent PD Hilton for an overnight stay. Gathering a few more applicants from the Kent Hilton, plus the contract to cook for the jail (could that be cruel and unusual punishment?), Mike was released …”

Whether or not it is “cruel and unusual punishment,” there is truth to this tale. Mike’s Place does feed the inmates of the Kent Police Department.

When the department detains people, feeding them is a necessity. Mike’s Place has provided the inmates food for about seven years, said Lt. John Altomare, of the department.

“When another restaurant we were dealing with went out of business, (we) needed something affordable that had breakfast, lunch and dinner,” he said. “We just approached them and asked them if they would be able to do it for us.”

And the restaurant was able to comply

When asked what his restaurant serves the inmates, owner Mike Kostensky laughed and said, “Pitchers of beer and wings” — but the true selection is a bit different. For breakfast, lunch and dinner, inmates choose one of three options.

For breakfast, they may eat two pancakes, eggs and sausage; five pancakes; or hot cereal and toast. For lunch, options include a hamburger, a ham sandwich, grilled cheese or a large salad with bread. Each of the sandwiches is served with french fries, soup or salad. For dinner, inmates may dine on fish with french fries, coleslaw or vegetables; chop sirloin with potato, salad and bread; or chef’s salad with bread or crackers.

All meals are served with soda or coffee, Altomare said. Dessert is not provided.

Gwenola Freeman, of Akron, said her son enjoyed the meal provided to him while he was incarcerated last weekend at the Kent Police Department.

“He said they had a choice of sandwiches,” she said. “I don’t know if he enjoyed being there, but he said the food was acceptable.”

When the department needs meals, it calls Mike’s Place and places its order, Kostensky said.

“We make the food, and when one of the officers is in the area, they swing by and pick it up,” he said. “I can tell you the prisoners don’t pick it up.”

The agreement between the Kent Police Department and Mike’s Place makes things easier for the department, Kostensky said.

“If they need food, we’ll make food for them,” he said. “They don’t have to go to the expense of hiring a cook.”

The restaurant assists the department in providing nutritious meals to its inmates, Altomare said. Every year, the department’s menu must be approved by health inspectors.

“Basically, the meals have to mirror what they can get outside,” he said. “We can’t just give them slop on bread.”

The meals come at a cost. Breakfasts cost $3 each, lunches cost $3.50 each and dinners cost $4 each, Altomare said, adding that the department averages “anywhere between 10 and 25 meals” in the course of a week. To date, the highest number of meals the department has ever provided within one week is 40.

Annually, feeding the prisoners “probably costs several thousand dollars,” Altomare said. When an officer goes to pick up the meals for the day, he or she gives a voucher to Mike’s Place. The bills are then paid about two or three times per year.

Students’ reactions to the arrangement between Mike’s Place and the police department vary.

Freshman business management major Tiara Wright said she doesn’t approve of spending taxpayer money on restaurant purchases for inmates.

“That’s not punishment,” she said. “Eating from a restaurant … it’s like if you go to jail, you’re going to eat well. I’m not saying they should have crappy food, but that’s a privilege to eat outside (at Mike’s Place).”

Sophomore exercise physiology major Adrienne Howe, however, said the arrangement is “neat.”

“If you’re in trouble, it’s kind of nice to have something good to eat,” she said, noting that if she could choose anything from Mike’s Place to eat while incarcerated, it would be its turkey club and french fries. “Everyone has their time of getting in trouble. I don’t think there’s any reason why people shouldn’t be able to eat good food.”

Contact public affairs reporter Michelle Park at [email protected].