Wichita, Kan. (AP) --
The food at the Sedgwick County jail is barely edible and disgusting to look at, according to two county commissioners who ate at the jail this week.
Commissioners Gwen Welshimer and Kelly Parks ate at the jail Monday after receiving an anonymous tip about the food. They asked to be served the same lunch inmates were served that day.
What they got was five meatballs, mashed potatoes, two slices of white bread, lettuce and canned apple slices.
Welshimer said she barely touched the food.
"Calorie-wise, that food was not something you feed human beings," she said. "Especially if you ate the entire thing, you'd get sick. ... There is no flavor of any kind. OK, maybe they (inmates) don't need flavor, but there should be some way to determine that you're eating."
She said the potatoes weren't peeled and were mashed with water, the lettuce was hot and had water on it.
And, she said, the meatballs "could've been horse meat for all I know."
Parks said he ate the meal, but he had to take Maalox in the afternoon to help his upset stomach.
While jail meals are not required to look or taste good, they must meet dietary and nutrition guidelines in the county's contract with its jail food service provider, ABL Management. An ABL dietitian ensures that the three meals served each day total 2,700 calories, chief deputy David Thompson said.
Thompson didn't respond specifically to Welshimer's comments but said the jail has had some problems with ABL, its food vendor since February, particularly with changing the menu. The county pays ABL $1.01 for each jail meal.
ABL also provides food services for the courthouse cafe, Comcare and the work release facility.
John Appleton, president and chief executive officer of ABL, said Wednesday that he had sent some quality control employees to Sedgwick County to investigate the complaints.
He said the company, which provides food to over 130 locations in 30 states, takes such complaints seriously. But he added that the only complaints he has heard from Sedgwick County until now have been about late meal deliveries.
Thompson said he will ask a dietitian with the county health department to determine if the jail's menu meets dietary needs.
"We take what Commissioner Welshimer says very seriously," he said. "At the same time, we've got to work with the vendor and give them an opportunity to get established."
Commission Chairman Dave Unruh said the county needs to determine if the meals will keep inmates healthy, and if they are consistent with meals served in other detention facilities in the area.
If those two criteria are met, the county will have to decide if it wants to spend more on more appetizing food.
"When I have taken tours of the jail, I have not seen things that have been appetizing, but that's how jails operate," Unruh said.
Information from: The Wichita Eagle,