By Cleo Hernandez
Associate Editor, Volume 23
November begins a holiday season in the United States that is stuffed full of increased attention on food. The average American does seem to gain just under one pound of body weight during the holiday season. However, some individuals avoid this holiday gluttony through no choice of their own. Prisoners in the United States on a day-to-day basis have an extremely different interaction with the “food” they are provided. Research about the nature of prison food in the United States is sparse, but there seems to be a general consensus that an inmate does not receive adequate food.
The United States Supreme Court has recognized that the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment in the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution imposes duties on prison officials to provide prisoners with adequate food. In reality many prisoners encounter food that is primarily a product of state legislative choices about funding, and thus prison meal systems will vary widely from state to state and from prison to prison.
This means that in some states prisoners are simply not fed enough. In Gordon County, Georgia prisoners only get two meals per day, served at least 10 hours apart. In Butte-Silver Bow County, Montana, prisoner meals averaged between 1,700 and 2,000 calories per day. Furthermore, the nutritional value of the meals seems to be low, with items like margarine, brownies, and cake tacked on to meager meals in order to reach calorie minimums. Certainly, prisoners are not getting the diet rich in a diverse array of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables recommended by United States Department of Agriculture.