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Studying the state of food in the nation’s prisons–and seeking to transform the experience of eating inside

It is time to re-examine the message we are currently sending to and about some of the most vulnerable members of our society through the prison food experience.

Food is an integral part of the human experience.  Sitting down to a meal is part of being human, and sharing good food with others connects us. It nourishes us and communicates identity, relationships, and values.  

For people who are incarcerated, the unhealthy, unappetizing, and often inedible food in prison robs them of dignity, humanity, and health.  Food in prison is being wielded as a further form of punishment – one linked with chronic illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension. The adverse impacts of eating while incarcerated affect people long after their reentry into the community.

Over the next year, the Food in Prison Project will document the short and long-term effects of eating in confinement, analyze the structures that created our current system, and identify opportunities for change.  Through interviews and surveys, we will collect data and highlight the experiences of those who have been impacted by incarceration firsthand. We will support this data with site visits, conversations with experts from a number of disciplines, and discussions with stakeholders and decision-makers around the country.  Our goal is to use our research to frame a national dialogue and foster collaboration among a wide array of groups to bring about comprehensive and transformative change. Based on our research, the Food in Prison Project also plans to explore and launch pilot programs based on the most innovative approaches.