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COMMENDEE 2014-15: Mark earns a Commendation for his work as a Catering Manager at HMP Bristol, establishing a healthy eating ethos, and helping to improve the health and well-being of staff and prisoners throughout the establishment.
Mark Haddow is the Catering Manager at HMP Bristol and his outstanding contribution to prison life there has been to focus on transforming both the overall quality of menus on offer, in consultation with prisoners and staff, and to deepen prisoners’ own understanding of the importance of good nutrition.
As Mark himself points out, although he is a chef and thus committed to “getting the best available food from the available ingredients”, the driver for his work “was the belief that giving prisoners a balanced nutritional diet would contribute to reducing re-offending.” This is a bold claim on the surface, but Mark cites persuasive evidence suggesting that better meal choices, combined with healthier diets, can reduce violent behaviour by up to 36%.
Mark started by redesigning an entire four week menu cycle from scratch. This involved creating, testing, and improving a total of 252 new dishes, building on feedback from prisoners and staff via surveys, focus groups and at every stage, of course, the crucial ‘taste tests’.
Nominator Eric Darrie, of Safety and Equalities at HMP Bristol, notes that in his 16 years working at HMP Bristol, Mark has always been passionate about providing good quality food, but this Commendation reflects his dedication and drive in developing and delivering a particular package of innovations in response to the need to adopt guidelines for healthy eating practices.
In addition to completely revamping the menu, Mark went further and created an ‘Eat Well, Cook Well’ programme, designed to educate prisoners about the principles and practice of better nutrition. 380 prisoners have now been involved in 48 courses – which are also offered in condensed form to staff. The benefits for staff alone include improved morale, overall health improvements, and fewer sick days. Feedback has been almost universally positive, which on a subject as personal as food is no mean achievement. Its clear that both staff and prisoners are reassured and rewarded by Mark’s commitment to their food nutrition and health.
HMP Bristol’s Deputy Governor, Paul Wiltshire, describes Mark working “tirelessly” to “establish a new healthy eating ethos”, and notes that Mark also consulted with external partners, including food dieticians and public health experts.
All of this work has been delivered within the tight budgetary constraints for prisoners’ food – £1.92 per prisoner, per day. Not only are complaints down, but health has also been improved – and this in an area where people can be very reluctant to embrace the process of changing their familiar but unhealthy eating habits.
The Governing Governor at HMP Bristol, Anthea Albutt says that Mark has made “a terrific contribution towards prisoners’ and members of staff eating habits and well-being. He has totally encompassed this healthy way of life and in doing so has transformed his own health and well-being and is a role model to all.”
Mark himself is keen to share the he has been instrumental in developing, and would like to see improved diets and nutrition education “rolled out in more prisons nationally and absorbed into the prison curriculum.”
One final point, made by Eric, is worth noting, too: “And the food is exceptional!”