The Whole Picture is Coming Together

February Great Story by Megan Hines, Los Angeles Fellow

There I stood looking out into a sea of inmates in blue and yellow jumpsuits. Many thoughts went through my mind including, “what the heck did you get yourself into Megan” “don`t make eye contact” and “it`s like I`m in one of those criminal shows on TV!”

I stood near the trash bins at the front of the mess hall where the inmates would line up to separate their waste after they were finished eating dinner. Milk and juice cartons were placed into one bin, utensils, condiment packaging and napkins into another and any leftover food (vomit stew) into the last. I could hardly concentrate on the deputy explaining the procedures, as I felt 100 plus pair of eyes on me and was busily trying my best to hide my less than enthused facial expressions. I stood there and watched bits of peas, carrots and brown slop splash off the sides of the waste receptacle as the inmates would empty the food off of their trays. I took a step back out of the splash zone and thought to myself, “why am I here”.

Fast forward 2 months later and the whole picture is coming together.

I have seen how the food waste is collected from the inmates, I have ridden along with the food waste pick up crew, I have dumped food into the compost pit and have helped created procedures to better expedite food waste disposal from the facilities at Pitchess. Last week I was taught the correct and most efficient techniques for composting by Agromin, a sustainable soil renewing company. My site supervisor and I are now in the process of creating composting procedures that Pitchess can follow and use as a guide.

It has been really interesting seeing the whole process come together and now I am glad I have been emerged in every step, even the then dreaded dinner time feeding. Sure I could have written up the procedures on food waste disposal without observing the dinner feeding, but because I observed it I was better able to understand the process and feel more confident in preaching food waste disposal and management practices to the other facilities. I guess it sort of goes along with the saying “practice what you preach.”