SUNBURY - An inmate who threatened to go on a hunger strike at Northumberland County Prison has postponed the protest after speaking with the acting warden, according to a letter sent to The News-Item.

Charles Picarella Jr., 35, of Elysburg, wrote a letter to the prison board last week saying a hunger strike was to begin Monday in opposition of the food service provided by Aramark Correctional Services.

The strike was called off, Picarella wrote, after he and four like-minded inmates spoke with Cmdr. Brian Wheary, acting warden.

"We felt he spoke in good faith and because we are reasonable individuals, we have agreed to not commence with the hunger strike," Picarella wrote.

The county's three-year contract with Aramark is drawing to a close. Wheary said last week that inmates' concerns about food service would be discussed when negotiating a new deal to begin in January.

Should their requests not be met, Picarella said a hunger strike would begin. In the event of a strike, he said an injunction is being sought from the Court of Common Pleas to prevent prison staff from "taking any action in response to our peaceful demonstration, including any attempts to feed us intravenously."

Picarella, jailed on drug-related charges, says the prison's "poor" menu should be supplemented with fresh fruit and vegetables, along with milk. He also alleges Aramark's business practice creates incentive to beat budget figures, allowing for the possibility of prisoners being underfed, a claim a company representative has denied.