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A Bunch of Bologna

Authors: Jacob *, Community Education Project
Topics: Food Systems
Keywords: prison food
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2020
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual Track 8
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In the prison food industry, food staples are incorporated and indoctrinated to be socially and culturally identifiable as ‘prison-related cuisine.’ Items such as white bread, cabbage, some choice of bean, and the catch-all meal replacement, bologna, are not only institutionalized, but become synonymous with the average daily meal served to prisoners. These foods, however, serve not to enforce good eating habits, but are used instead to denote the inferiority of the consuming party (i.e. the prisoner). They are served with the justification of being nutritionally sound and, more importantly, cost efficient. In reality, these food items become akin to poverty and low levels of cultural food capital. Because of the high volume of incarcerated prisoners (over 100,000 in Florida State Prisons alone), foods served in these settings are processed, industrialized, and unrecognizable to food items one would find on a grocery store shelf. Even when served with the moniker of ‘chicken nuggets,’ ‘meat fried rice,’ or the all-persuasive ‘zesty patty,’ these foods cannot be seen beyond the social context of the incarcerated setting. This is further highlighted by food items that are desirable, i.e. ‘chicken on the bone.’ These highly sought meals are served rarely and are highlighted for their relationship to ‘real food’ that one might find outside the prison setting. However, this contrast to the normal prison diet further serves to indoctrinate and define these food items as being linked to inferiority, industrialization, and prison-only consumption.

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