Bread Behind Bars: What’s Changing on Prison Menus?

Prisoners may be having more of an opportunity to eat healthier, thanks to a recent boom in prison gardens and a fight for better mental and physical health within the legal system. The initial idea of hardened criminals living it up on fresh fruits and vegetables may be uncomfortable, but keep in mind that one of the biggest populations of current prisoners are nonviolent prisoners arrested on drug charges. Here are a few updates showing the transition of prison food environments that are changing for the better.

Bread Behind Bars What's Changing on Prison Menus

Garden Food Coming to the Menu

Organizations like Planting Justice is a grassroots organization giving urban residents affordable, nutritious food. While this organization is only in California, prison gardens and access to produce from prisons are slowly increasing. According to a recent Washington Post report, Maryland’s largest penitentiary is growing strawberries, squash, eggplant, heads of cabbage, lettuce, and peppers to teach prisoners about healthy eating options. While Alcatraz had a reputation for having a lovely garden, the idea of gardening died out with easy to heat pre-made meals and has made a comeback in past decades. Even with foods that are shipped in, effort is being made to include a variety of more healthy options. Other bulk companies like Klosterman Baking Company offer more than just a standard fare of bread and are making strides to expand their products. This way, when things are shipped in, they offer a lot more than they did in the past.

OITNB Look at Salad Options

Whether you’re a fan of the show, Orange Is the New Black or not, in the book “Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison” written by Piper Kerman, the former drug dealer admits that one of her biggest fallouts in prison was over none other than green leafy vegetables. Spinach and lettuce turned into a huge issue between herself and another prisoner who thought it was rude to pick through the food. Looking past the entertaining aspect, Kerman pointed out within the book why she was so adamant about eating healthier food items whenever they were (rarely) available. Judging from a Federal Bureau of Prisons National Menu from 2014, her rundown is correct. Lettuce is sporadic throughout the day. Broccoli, vegetable soup, beans, and fresh fruit have also crept their way onto the list.

Soy Foods Make an Entrance

While there is a nutritional struggle for inmates who claim that soy foods on the menu are hurting, not helping their diet, for a vegan or vegetarian prisoner, having the option of soy foods is imperative. One prisoner claimed to have suffered belching, pain, cramps, and constipation from eating soy foods, according to the Washington Post. However, Vegan Health confirms that it’s not soy that’s the problem, so much as having more than the recommended one to two servings per day. Slowly, prisons are becoming more educated on diets, preferences and nutrition and are able to adequately feed and care for prisoners. New information is available and helping change come from within.

No matter the views of prisoners, legally they are entitled to have reasonable mental, physical, and nutritional care while incarcerated. Introducing healthier items on the menu not only creates new prison jobs but also are an excellent teaching tools and skills for prisoners to have once out.