Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A First Look at Inmate Diet: The Nutrition and Violence Connection

CDCR's regulations about inmate diets start off with a commitment to provide inmates with --

a healthy and nutritionally balanced diet, served in an orderly manner with food flavor, texture, temperature, appearance and palatability taken into consideration. Current Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA), and Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) as established by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Science shall be considered authoritative in setting levels of nutritional need. Sanitation, safety, and food handling standards and practices shall be established and maintained in keeping with applicable requirements established by the Industrial Safety Standards (California Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 8) and the California Health and Safety Code (H&SC).

The standard menu for all institutions is a "heart healthy" low-salt, low-fat diet. All prison meals, save those served in camps, are pork free, and the regulations make allowances for vegetarian, Jewish, and recently added Muslim ("meat alternate") meals.

This week, Emily Deans over at Evolutionary Psychiatry has posted links to several studies, conducted with double-blinds and control groups, which suggest that nutrition may play an important role in inmate violence reduction. Her first post cites two such studies, and her second post speaks of Gesch's work in this field and his assessment that recommendations for vitamin supplements would not be heeded due to political reasons. I assume providing inmates with medication might be portrayed as "coddling" them and make for bad press, but maybe it should be considered as a public safety measure, considering its reductive effects on violence?

I've been trying to look at the Receivership's organizational tree to figure out if anyone at the prison medical services did work concerned with preventative medicine, including dietary recommendations. Dear readers - if you can provide us with sample daily/weekly menus at CA institutions, or with stories on what friends or family members purchase at the canteen to supplement their meals, we'll all know a bit more about prison nutrition.

props to Yossi Kikayon for bringing this to my attention.


former Cali prisoner said...

Just one initial comment: CDCR menus are just as often as not *not* what prisoners actually eat that day. Menu items are eliminated, extensive substitutions made, etc. etc. after CDC has rubber-stamped,distributed, posted the menu. And sometimes the *food* served is much worse than the menu reflects. So take the CDC menus with a big grain of salt.

Hadar Aviram said...

Thanks for this - it's very helpful. Do the inmates get the menu in advance? Is there anywhere where I can see it?

David said...

My girlfriend has the follow comments on VSPW's food:
- fatty
- small portions
- rubbery
- at the end of the week all left over vegetables are combined into on dish
- mystery meat (the mystery is which inmate actually got the meat)

Madhatter said...

I have the actual CDCr menus and some of the actual prison menus. I do not have all of them uploaded to my site. The discrepancies between the CDCr menu and the prison menus are "interesting".

You can view what I have posted including pictures of actual inmate lunches and one dinner that was sent to me here:

Anonymous said...

I'll have to look back through some recent letters and see if my husband sent me some menus. I think he did.

Hadar Aviram said...

Thank you all very much - this information, and actual menus, are much appreciated.

Emma Mason said...

Everyone is entitled to be provided a nutrition and healthy diet most of all in prisons, healthy stomach comes with a healthy mind, if they are eating good food they would think in good manner. Thank you for sharing this insight information, really appreciate it.