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Nutraloaf, a product from the cafeteria of the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility, sits atop an inmate’s bunk bed at the facility in South Burlington, Vt., March 21, 2008. (AP Photo/Andy Duback)

Last August, with Is Prison Food Unconstitutional? was the first time (on the blog) that I had considered the nutritional health of US prisoners.

Despite the catchy headline bait, the number of organic food programs within prisons serving their canteens is still limited. The reality is that prisoners eat poor quality food.

Earlier this month, CBS reported that “the USDA recalled more than 200,000 pounds of ground beef products sent to prisons in Oregon and California after inspectors found that some were discolored and smelled funky.” The packed-on dates were between July and November 2010. This beef went only to prisons, not to retailers.

Bryan Finoki, usually residing at Subtopia, has launched a call for Prison Food Critics.

“It seems as though the connections between the two [prisons and food] can be seen across a fascinating spectrum of cultural, moral, and economic landscapes, sharing fascinating intersections with histories of pop food magnates, innovative smuggler networks, Auschwitz-era recipe books, the politics of prison labor, and race-infused hunger strikes, just to start! […] Prisons don’t just deserve their own inmate food writers – they absolutely need them!”

Finoki meanders through prison food law, the cultural history of Nutraloaf and even theorises food as warfare, “Food is a very primal weapon, and its disguise under the cloak of non-lethality would surely not escape our astute prison food writer. In fact, no one has studied the long-term effects of prison food or the Nutraloaf.”

I am just left to wonder if writing is enough? Isn’t the juicy, dripping, all-colour image part-and-parcel of  foodie blogs, recipe mags and eatery advertisements?

Shouldn’t the articles Finoki calls for be accompanied by dressed food photography?

WANTED! Prison Food Photographers!


Science in Prison, Change Within Ourselves

Benjamin Drummond, Sara Joy Steele, Nature and Washington State Prisons

Prison Moss Project

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.


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