‘Nutraloaf’: Punishment Food

Prisons in several states punish obstreperous inmates by serving them “nutraloaf.” This food, purposely designed to be unappetizing and unrewarding, albeit properly nutritional, consists of all sorts of things mashed together and baked into a loaf. Among the ingredients are “mechanically separated poultry”–bits of meat scraped off chicken bones by machines–and “dairy blend” (I don’t really want to know what that is, so I don’t ask). Prisoners have filed a number of lawsuits alleging that a nutraloaf diet constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the 8th Amendment. So far, none of those lawsuits has succeeded.

In the video, several ordinary people taste-test a couple different varieties of nutraloaf. It doesn’t put you in the mood to join them.

Personally, I think there’s something vaguely sinful about using food as punishment, purposely making it so that there can be no pleasure in eating it. “I sing the mighty power of God, who filled the world with food,” as the old hymn goes. The idea of nutraloaf makes me somewhat uncomfortable, morally.

But you only get it if you’ve been bad in prison.

11 comments on “‘Nutraloaf’: Punishment Food

  1. I’m no fan of crime, but I’m no more a fan of the prison system. Prison, by definition, is a way of keeping people sequestered so they can do no harm to the population at large. That’s it. The punishment is lack of freedom.

    Making people eat unappetizing foods is not right. It’s not decent. Piling punishment on top of punishment is wrong, IMO. If someone is in prison, that is their punishment and that is sufficient. If they can’t behave well enough in prison that they pose a threat to fellow prisoners, then they can be confined further, to protect the other prisoners, some of whom can and will return to productive lives once their sentence is complete.

    But even the most violent and vile prisoners shouldn’t be forced to eat what is apparently food designed to use up byproducts without regard to the humanity of the prisoner. I wouldn’t be at all surprised it nutriloaf isn’t making a lot of money for someone.

    1. I don’t think they do it to punish the inmates, there just cheap and saving as much money as possible. And because they have a captive audience (pun intended), they can get away with it.

    2. Hmm, somehow I doubt the non-punishment food is much better. It’s not exactly the Ritz.

    3. Oh, it is! The leading manufacturer of nutraloaf also is the food service for many high schools and colleges (think about that!)–and most NFL stadiums.

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