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COMMENDEE 2020-21: Chris’s Commendation is for going “far above and beyond” his role as Catering Manager at HMP Kirkham, transforming not only the prison’s food, but also the health and well-being of prisoners and staff throughout the establishment.

Managing Chaplain and Initial Nominator Tony Davies notes that men arriving from other establishments “always remark how good the food is at HMP Kirkham and this brings an extra bonus to their Category D experience. His Department is well run and efficient. Chris also caters for Faith Festivals and produces superb festival meals whether it is for a large number of men of the larger faiths or just one man from a minor faith. He produces mulled wine and mince pies for over a hundred community visitors at the HMP Kirkham Christmas Carol Concert, which is widely appreciated by the local community. He is always flexible and adaptable and nothing is too effort much for him.”

In addition, he praises Chris for “working incredibly hard and thoughtfully through Ramadan and Eid, despite the challenges Covid-19 has presented in terms of dining arrangements, which could have severely impacted on the men’s celebrations and would have added further anxiety at an already stressful time. Chris can be counted on to always respect men’s faith and beliefs.”

Tony explains that on top of his busy day job as the prison’s catering manager, “Chris contributes widely to the health and well-being of the prison for both prisoner residents and staff, and can always be relied upon to become actively involved in all events that help develop the prison’s well-being awareness.”

He says that “Chris’s supportive nature and generous spirit has seen him cater for charity events such as Mary’s Meals, where up to a hundred members of the community come into the prison and are served the most delicious soups provided by Chris and his team. At this event alone thousands of pounds were raised and were sent to poor and neglected children all across the world.”

Tony concludes that “Chris epitomises the label of ‘going above and beyond the call of duty’ in every task he tackles. Right now he is now very busy with his pie making and sandwiches for the popular meal deals in the farm shop for staff… he is relentless with his enthusiasm and consistent with his delivery – an outstanding colleague in every sense!”

Andrew Richardson, Regional Employment Broker at HMP Kirkham and Butler Trust Local Champion shares some more powerful testimonials. ‘Paul’, a prisoner, says “Chris’s commitment to his role is clear. He attends Prisoner Council meetings to get a feel for the sentiment of the residents around catering, taking on board all feedback. It is a testament to his commitment to serving the residents that he often tweaks his systems and menus to enhance the experience and pro-actively addresses any concerns.” Another prisoner, ‘Warren’, thinks Chris McCammon “does a wonderful job in the kitchens and even though we are in this pandemic he has excelled himself further by getting all our food out in time and the most important thing is he has kept everyone safe.”

‘Paul’, also a prisoner, adds that “Chris McCammon sees the men differently. A man with a strong sense of public duty to look after the men in his care to the best of his abilities, whilst also taking care of his colleagues. He is a man who deserves the accolades currently being dispatched in his direction.”

A colleague at HMP Kirkham, Sue Thornley of Spectrum Health, says Chris works with Healthcare “to ensure men receive appropriate diet and nutrition and manages his small budget better than I have seen in any other prison.” Andy Richardson of New Futures Network, adds that “Chris is just so helpful and positive. I’ve never seen him phased or flustered and he represents the prison so well when meeting the employers I work with.”

Andrew notes that Chris has worked for HMPPS since 2002, and his “passion for rehabilitation” was recently demonstrated in a collaboration with the Healthcare Team to provide a ‘Healthy Eating Roadshow’, with “the men given nutritional and portion size information and support to inspire lifelong changes in diet and health.”

He notes that Chris’s commitment to “continuous improvement” can be seen through how he captures the views of the men through surveying their opinions on the existing menus “in order to understand how they could be improved”, adding that “he demonstrates real humility in seeking their ideas and suggestions.”

As a manager, Chris is praised as “highly participative” and “openly engaging with his staff to draw on their ideas” as well as coaching and encouraging them to come up with their own recipes and recommendations.”

Andrew adds that Chris “is also incredibly entrepreneurial, which was seen in the development of the Visits tea bar in late 2019.  Chris produced a business case that sought to increase the service and provision within the tea room and to create its own identity – as well as increasing profits, which could then be used to provide further amenities and services through the establishment.”

He concludes by calling Chris “an inspiration to all at HMP Kirkham. He strives to improve lives and rises to any challenge.  His resourcefulness has been a true asset to the prison, particularly under the present COVID-19 crisis, where he has adapted to frequent regime challenges with an unrivalled level of positively.”

Derek Harrison, HMP Kirkham’s Governor, concurs, calling Chris “an exceptional colleague, who stands out. Chris is an endless contributor to making positive changes and developing a strong rehabilitative culture in our prison. Chris has amazing energy, enthusiasm and the ability to make things happen.” He goes on to call Chris “the best Catering Manager I have had the pleasure to work with in 41 years’ service in prisons. As a Catering Manager he provides an excellent food service to our residents, as well as amazing food and refreshments for all our larger events such as conferences, family days, staff and prisoner engagement events and to members of the public through his community engagement work.” Derek further notes that, “remarkably, he is able to deliver all of this on a very challenging budget, and through all this Chris provides a real working life experience for those residents employed in his kitchen. During the COVID pandemic Chris has stepped up even further, to ensure catering being provided for all residents, including ensure meal provision whilst managing infection within the prison. Chris has brought people together within the prison with numerous excellent fund-raising ventures.”

Chris himself explains more about his work: “We oversee the Staff Mess which is run collaboratively with our education provider who deliver NVQ Level 2 in Professional Cookery to our residents. Myself and my team will organise special events for the learners such as theme days, a la carte events, Christmas lunches and Staff BBQs. Our Staff BBQs are a great day for staff and our resident learners, the staff benefit from a chance to unwind with colleagues and the men experience a large-scale catering event that they are heavily involved in the production and service of, giving them insight into another aspect of catering.”

Elsewhere, he reports, “We have recently overhauled the visits catering provision to include the service of hot food, in a much-improved visits space, this again is staffed by resident workers who are public facing and given a great deal of responsibility. Visits are such an important part of our residents’ journey that I feel the very best should be made of the experience.”

He describes himself as “incredibly proud to have worked for HMPPS for 18 years”, and notes that he knows “how many different roles and skill sets that are required to make a prison run smoothly.”

Another entrepreneurial endeavour involves pies, says Chris: “Working with a very small budget we have had to create ways to support the extra work we do, and we have recently rolled out our new homemade pie venture called ‘The Flying Pie Corps’ which uses only meat reared on our own farms and gardens. We sell these through our farm shop which we keep stocked with all manner of other things from soup to fresh bread and jams. We also supply our Visits Centre and Conference Centre, where we cater for various other Government Departments meetings and events.”

He describes his strong belief in nutrition and good food as “a vital part in improving our residents experience and maintain the stability of our Establishment,” and says “a fully nutritional balanced diet is important to anyone’s wellbeing. It can boost learning ability, calm the soul and give time to think and reflect and energise the imagination. My personal key objective is to do all I can to present our residents with as many opportunities to self-challenge their offending behaviours and to recognise that a life without crime is achievable.”

He concludes: “I take no greater pleasure than when I say goodbye to one of our men knowing that he came to us with no ambition, no idea of his potential, and no prospect of changing his path and is now leaving us with a home, repaired family ties, a positive outlook and a job. I see that as good job, well done. I am incredibly proud to work for the Prison Service, it is a truly remarkable organisation.”

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