The U.S. Border Patrol is creating a new feeding program that officials hope will provide nutritious meals for detainees at even the agency’s most remote locations.
The agency is soliciting contractors for a five-year project costing up to about $210 million that, if successful, would streamline meals for immigrants in its custody along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The nine Border Patrol sectors along the Mexican border can experience unexpected surges in migrants. That’s not the case this year because of the pandemic, but last year sectors encountered large groups of people that overwhelmed supplies.
"Customs and Border Protection has needed to improve the food it gives people for decades," said Aaron Reichlin Melnick, an analyst with the American Immigration Council which sued the agency over how it treated migrants here in Tucson.
A criticism of the detention centers is on food quality: Detainees were provided frozen burritos, bologna sandwiches, crackers and juice. Children less than 5 do receive more appropriate food, but Reichlin Melnick said older children do not.
"For kids who are between 5 and 18 who also need nutritionally adequate food, many of them just get the bologna sandwiches and reheated microwave bean burritos that everyone else gets," he said.
An agency spokesman wrote in an email response to questions about the program: "We are hoping to simplify the process by providing for one-stop shopping with established pricing. We emphasize that any vendor who is awarded a BPA (blanket purchase agreement) will have to ensure their menu meets the stringent and mandated USDA/FDA nutritional and food handling guidelines, which further guarantees that we are providing for the proper care of detainees held in custody."