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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Evolution of Prison Food: Creating a Feast Fit For a Felon

From chicagotribune.com: They dine on chicken patties because drumsticks could be sharpened into deadly weapons. They eat fruit in moderation because leftovers could be fermented into "hooch."

     And if they misbehave, their meal is blended into an unpleasant loaf that  serves as a nutritional punishment. Such feasts are fit for a felon, devised by correctional facilities to solve a complex culinary problem -- meeting nutritional guidelines with limited budgets. It's a delicate balance, trying to satisfy both dietitians and food critics prone to violent outbursts.

n the world of convict cuisine, even the dessert menu can trigger unrest.

"You have to be concerned about the Jell-O being runny," said Barbara Wakeen, a dietitian who created a menu this fall for the DuPage County Jail. "If an inmate is having a bad day, bad Jell-O could be what sets him off."

Providing 2,900 calories per day at 92 cents per meal, Wakeen devised a menu that met nutritional guidelines for a $1 million food service contract at the facility.

But the fare, which ranged from meatloaf and meatballs to Spanish rice and sloppy joes, also highlighted the evolution of inmate nutrition. Once little more than bread and water, prisoner plates now include calcium-enriched beverages that meet dietary requirements on a shoestring budget.

"In corrections, when you're trying to feed people and can't afford to give them 3 cups of milk a day, this is a way to accomplish it," said Wakeen, who has written menus for about 100 correctional facilities across the country since 1988. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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