New Board Chair Barb Wakeen Promotes NCCHC’s Strengths—and Healthy Diets

Posted Nov 7, 2017

Barbara Wakeen

Barbara A. Wakeen, MA, RDN, CCHP, became chair of the NCCHC board of directors on Nov. 5, after one year as chair-elect. She has served on the board as liaison of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics since 2001 and has rich experience on NCCHC’s executive, education, juvenile health and policy and standards committees.

Internationally recognized as an authority on correctional nutrition, Wakeen has practiced as a consultant, corporate dietitian and district manager in the correctional food-service industry since 1989. She owns and operates Correctional Nutrition Consultants, Ltd., which provides food-service and nutritional consultation to prisons, jails, detention facilities and other corrections-related food arenas across the country. She also has experience as an instructor and expert witness and has participated in clinical trials research.

During her one-year term as board chair, one of Wakeen’s priorities is to advance NCCHC’s mission of improving the quality of health care provided in correctional facilities by promoting the Standards for Health Services and other best practices, and by providing additional educational opportunities to the field. Other goals are to increase awareness of and participation in NCCHC accreditation, and to usher in the use of new technologies to enhance services for accredited facilities, such as the new online portal.

Commitment to Corrections
It was in 1989, after eight years as a dietitian in community settings including long-term care, that Wakeen entered a correctional facility for the first time, assigned to oversee the medical diet program at a maximum-security prison as part of a court order.

When the court order ended a year later, she moved on to a food contract management company whose client roster included correctional facilities. Before long, she became its corporate dietitian for corrections, responsible for more than 50 facilities in the eastern two-thirds of the country. Those six years of experience in corrections clinched it: In 1995, Wakeen committed her career to correctional nutrition and food service and established a consultancy.

“Nutrition is an extremely important component of inmate health,” she says. “Not only are meals generally the highlight of the day for those who are incarcerated, but for some people, what’s served behind bars may be the healthiest food they’ve ever had. Nutrition can impact medical outcomes as well as health care costs.”

Wakeen’s packed appointment calendar underscores her tireless work as she travels around the country working with clients, attending and speaking at educational events and serving in leadership roles for several professional organizations. A Certified Correctional Health Professional since 2009, she also became an accreditation surveyor last year.

Wakeen’s contributions to published works are extensive. She is the editor of Nutrition and Foodservice Management in Correctional Facilities, published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She lends her expertise to every edition of the Standards manuals as well as to NCCHC position statements and other resources. She also has written for CorrectCare and many other publications and is a peer reviewer for the Journal of Correctional Health Care.

In her personal life, Wakeen dives right into challenges—literally, as she is an avid scuba diver. In her travels to diving sites, she often visits the local correctional facility and may write an article about food and diets there. To date she has written about Belize, Honduras, Palau and Australia.

At the helm of NCCHC, Wakeen knows that it is unusual for a registered dietitian nutritionist to take on this role. But she sees it as part of a larger effort, enhanced by her long corrections experience and deep understanding of the Commission. “Corrections and diet programs have evolved over time, and communications among various health care disciplines have grown stronger,” she says. “Our disciplines work together to meet NCCHC’s mission to provide for the health care needs of those we serve."

— From CorrectCare Volume 31, Issue 4, Fall 2017