NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Cutting Calories in the Big House

October 1, 2003

In order to cut costs, prison officials in several states have introduced new food plans that involve either reducing the number of calories provided inmates each day or eliminating a meal on weekends and holidays by serving two meals instead of three.

  • The goal set for the Texas prison system is to reduce its food spending by about $6 million.
  • North Carolina has followed a similar plan, reducing the number of calories served to inmates to 2,700 a day from 3,300; this has enabled the state to cut the amount spent on feeding an inmate from $943 in 1998 to $709 a year.
  • Other states that have cut food spending are Arizona, Iowa, Minnesota and Virginia; other states, including Massachusetts, are beginning to experiment with the reduced diets in individual prisons.

So far, officials in the states that have cut prisoners' food say inmates have not complained. Prison officials emphasize that reduction is not in the amount of food only the number of calories consumed. They say meals remain nutritious and continue to follow the food pyramid recommended by the Department Agriculture.

Source: Fox Butterfield, "States Putting Inmates on Diets to Trim Budgets," New York Times, September 30, 2003.


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