Photo: Andy Duback / AP. An inmate shows off the nutraloaf prepared by the cafeteria of the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in South Burlington, Vt. To prison officials, it’s a complete meal. To inmates, it’s a food so awful, they’d rather go hungry than eat it.

Prison food is notoriously bad, but is it unconstitutional? Prisoners have sued saying the forced menu of Nutraloaf, served to inmates accused of alleged infractions, is cruel and unusual punishment.

This from Slate:

Nutraloaf (sometimes called Nutri-loaf, sometimes just “the loaf”) is served in state prisons around the country. It’s not part of the regular menu but is prescribed for inmates who have misbehaved in various ways—usually by proving untrustworthy with their utensils. The loaf provides a full day’s nutrients, and it’s finger food—no fork necessary.

Nutraloaf is cubed whole wheat bread, nondairy cheese, raw carrots, spinach, seedless raisins, beans, vegetable oil, tomato paste, powdered milk and dehydrated potato flakes.

The larger issue here is one of economics. State prisons look to cost-saving in every part of its operations (that’s what happens when an unsustainable prison-system is created by voters and punitive laws). Nutritional considerations were abandoned long ago across the US prison industrial complex. Ideally, the “better food” discussion should be eclipsed by the “better non-custodial alternatives in US criminal justice” discussion.