We’re continuing to work to advance better nutrition in prisons and jails. Here are four ways our advocacy on this issue is making an impact.
Allegheny County Jail switched to a new food service provider after the Prison Society helped bring serious problems with the jail’s food to light. Our survey of incarcerated people in the ACJ last year documented reports of food that was moldy, rotten, and contaminated with insects and rodent droppings. Ninety-five percent of respondents said they regularly went hungry. We have received some early feedback that meals have improved since the jail switched to a new vendor, and continue to monitor the issue.
The Prison Society testified before Washington, D.C. City Council in support of a law that would strengthen standards for food service in the city’s jails. “We are especially encouraged by the inclusion of regular inspection and continual quality improvement of food service,” the Prison Society’s director of monitoring, Noah Barth, said of the legislation. Among other provisions, it would require the city jail to meet federal nutrition standards and direct it to adopt the Good Food Purchasing Policy.
Philadelphia jails adjusted mealtimes after we made administrators aware that incarcerated people were going hungry. The jails used to serve dinner at 4 p.m., forcing incarcerated people to fast for 16 hours until breakfast at 8 a.m. or buy supplemental food from the commissary. Now, dinner is served at 5 p.m. and breakfast is served at 6 a.m., reducing the gap between meals by three hours.
Our project to improve food in Pennsylvania state prisons is featured in the blog of The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). The article highlights how the rise of mass incarceration drove down the quality of prison food, as states like Pennsylvania tried to feed more people with fewer resources. CSPI is a national consumer advocacy organization that seeks to expand access to healthy, sustainable food. The organization provided grant funding for the Prison Society to hire a nutritionist to review prison food service in the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.
We look forward to providing more updates on this important work as our project to improve food service in Pennsylvania state prisons progresses.