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Remembering Oak Ridge

Food & Dining

Transporting Meals to Oak Ridge

The Criminal Insane Building was constructed in 1933 without full kitchen facilities. It was determined that the kitchen in the main building of the Ontario Hospital, Penetanguishene was more than adequately equipped to feed the additional population of the new division. Prepared meals were therefore prepared in the facilities of the regional division and transported by truck hill to the forensic division. Patients and, later, dietary staff carried the trays by hand up and down the stairs three times a day, every day. The food was reheated through the use of steam cabinets.

Additional kitchen facilities were added throughout the years - a new electric range, expanded dishwasher, kettles and refrigeration on the wards - but the bulk of the meals still had to be brought in from the outside.  

Ontario Hospital bread recipes, 1930-1960

Menu Week 1

Weekly Menu, 2014

The Food at Oak Ridge

Weekly menus were offered on a four week rotation. Patients gave the meals mixed reviews - some were well content while others found endless complaints. One patient was inspired to write and perform a song at the 1986 variety show in which he discussed the food served at Oak Ridge:  

"Lets band together for the rest
We want pizza not chicken breast
These are the meals we're served
Like beef stroganoff it'll curl your hair
Wear right through the clothes you wear
Something gone, something gone somewhere"

(Verse from patient-composed song, 1986)

Patients who could afford the luxury were permitted to order in their meals. Local restaurants in the Penetanguishene and Midland area regularly delivered pizzas, Chinese food, and burgers to Oak Ridge.

Knife display

Knife display, 2014

Dining Facilities

The communal dining room changed little over the years. Patients sat at long tables in a room lined on the one side with windows that looked out over the yard and, from the 1970s afterwards, the other walls were painted with murals.

Food was served from the steam cabinets on trays. One fork, one spoon, and one knife - all plastic - were distributed to patients at each meal and disposed of after use. At random, this cutlery was counted after meals to ensure that none was missing.

Eating in the dining room was considered a privilege. Patients who were deemed unable to be among a group or who acted out in some way took the same meals on the wards or in their rooms. 


By Jennifer L. Bazar

Page Last Updated: June 4, 2015


Mental Health Centre Penetanguishene patients' clinical case files (1902-1986). Mental Health Centre Penetanguishene (RG 10-303). Archives of Ontario, Toronto, ON.

Nielsen, R. F. (2006). Total encounters: The life and times of the Mental Health Centre Penetanguishene. Penetanguishene, ON: Mental Health Centre Volunteer Association.

Ontario Hospital is a fine modern structure. (1932, November 24). Midland Free Press, p. 5-6.

How to Cite this Page

Bazar, J. L. (2015). Food & dining. In J. L. Bazar (Ed.), Remembering Oak Ridge Digital Archive and Exhibit. Retrieved from