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News Release
Two Rivers Correctional Institution
Two Rivers Correctional Institution
DOC, OHA partner on sodium-reduction effort to improve health of people in custody, all Oregonians (Photo) - 04/09/19

April 9, 2019

Media contacts: Jennifer Black, 503-569-3318, .Black@doc.state.or.us">Jennifer.Black@doc.state.or.us

Delia Hernandez, 503-422-7179, phd.communications@dhsoha.state.or.us

DOC, OHA partner on sodium-reduction effort to improve health of people in custody, all Oregonians

This press release is jointly issued by the Oregon Department of Corrections and the Oregon Health Authority.

Portland, Ore. -- A partnership between the Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) led to a significant reduction in the amount of sodium in meals served since 2016 to adults in custody (AIC) at the state’s 14 correctional institutions.

DOC’s Food Services staff, and the AICs who work in the kitchens, serve more than 16 million meals a year. With a food budget of just $2.55 per AIC per day, the DOC, in consultation with OHA, drove down sodium in meals close to 20 percent in the first two years of the project. This was accomplished by purchasing and substituting low-sodium versions of food products, as well as revising recipes and food preparation techniques. DOC supports these efforts by offering AIC classes about overall health and how to reduce sodium intake.

For example, prior to this work, DOC purchased tortillas from outside vendors. Now, they are prepared by the incarcerated men at Two Rivers Correctional Institution. The handmade version has 20 percent less sodium, and the objective is to reduce sodium in all bread recipes by the same amount.

Multiplied across a statewide prison population of nearly 15,000 adults, these kinds of changes hold enormous potential for slowing the rapid rise in cardiovascular disease among adults in custody, as well as the costs to taxpayers of treating them. Lower sodium items are generally more expensive. When there is higher demand for healthier low-sodium items, the cost of these items may come down.

“Most of the salt we consume isn’t added at the table. It comes in the processed, packaged and restaurant foods we eat in mealtime staples,” said Lillian Shirley, public health director for the Oregon Health Authority. “High blood pressure damages a person’s circulatory system and is a major contributing factor to heart attacks and strokes, which are costly medical conditions to treat.”

“Ninety-five percent of Oregon’s incarcerated adults will eventually be released. When they re-enter society healthier, that saves money on health care costs and contributes to healthier communities for all of us,” Shirley said.

The two agencies collaborated to create two videos to share the successes of the work at DOC. One video features the story of an AIC and lead cook at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville. And the second video features interviews with DOC leaders responsible for nutrition and purchasing. The videos are posted on OHA’s Place Matters Oregon website, which includes data and evidence-based strategies to help Oregonians move more, eat healthfully, be tobacco-free, and decrease excessive drinking http://placemattersoregon.com/my-place/ and http://placemattersoregon.com/what-the-experts-say/.  

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided funding to OHA to reduce daily sodium intake by bringing public health and institutional food service providers together to make lower sodium foods more readily available. Combined, heart disease and stroke are the leading cause of death in Oregon, accounting for a quarter of all deaths in 2017. Diets high in sodium can increase blood pressure, leading to increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

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