Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Prison Food

We've already perfected our signature prison wine, so it's time to move onto the main course: jail cuisine.
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We've already perfected our signature prison wine, so it's time to move onto the main course: jail cuisine. It's acquired a reputation for being exceptionally nasty, but is that cred -- like White Power Bill's -- actually earned?

As it turns out, prison food is pretty gross. But there's plenty of interesting backstory to it, aside from its dank smells. We're guessing it'll come in handy once your checkered past of stealing gum on dares catches up to you.

A hunger strike sounds like a good idea
Glancing over one of the Federal Bureau of Prisons' 2012 menus, the food actually sounds pretty decent. But apparently the real deal isn't up to snuff. A blog written by Stateville Correctional Center inmate Paul Modrowski contains this glowing recommendation for the meatballs: "I joke to my cellmate that they taste like an entire groundhog was put through a wood chipper, and with the help of some soy emulsifier, made into meatballs."

Sunday brunch ain't what it used to be
But it's not the mimosa-pounding experience you're imagining. Budget cuts have slashed several state prisons' servings from three full meals to two. Last year, Illinois took a cue from Ohio and Georgia and merged breakfast and lunch to "brunch" on weekends and holidays. Similarly, Texas axed lunch in 2011, along with last meals for death row.

Go kosher
You might assume jails leave convicts with religious dietary restrictions to fend for themselves, but the Federal Bureau of Prisons (called BOP, because TIGER BEAT was taken) keeps a detailed checklist of specifications for kosher foods. Everything from mixed veggie percentages to non-metallic packaging gets covered on the BOP guideline, and apparently the extra effort pays off. The kosher stuff is so highly regarded in some prisons that Gentile inmates try to fake their way into the program!

The food used to be good
At least in the 1940s in that floating palace we call Alcatraz. The San Francisco Chronicle got its hands on a vintage menu from '46, and it includes some pretty fancy options. This relic supports many modern prisoners' complaints that food was way better in the past, though we also don't have any postwar Tumblrs to back up the quality of the Beef Pot Pie Anglaise.