Prison food is notoriously awful. At times, it’s said to be nearly inedible. So it’s impossible for those who haven’t been to prison to imagine the flavor deprivation that a person must be experiencing in order for a hard-boiled egg to seem like a major upgrade. Prisoners have been known to smuggle in home-cooked food, so desperate are they for a break in the culinary monotony.
In Connell, Washington’s Coyote Ridge Corrections Center, that monotony turned into outrage that turned into a food strike, in which a majority of inmates recently refused to eat prison-served meals. They instead purchased all their food from the commissary. Per the Tri-City Herald, about 1,7000 of the prison’s 2,000 inmates were refusing prison meals until corrections officials agreed to make certain changes.
As Takeout editor Kevin Pang wrote after his reporting visits to Illinois’ Westville Correctional Facility, the lack of food choice and variety is one of the most striking and visceral daily reminds of one’s confinement: “Every person I surveyed, without fail, used the word ‘bland’ in describing chow hall food. Rather than prepare separate trays for inmates with high cholesterol or blood pressure, the kitchen serves low-sodium meals for the entire prison population. Even with the added salt, though, it tastes like a vague notion of lunch, with all the flavor and pleasure of food eaten one hour after dental surgery.”
In the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center, inmates were especially displeased by the 2014 shift from on-site prepared meals (made using ingredients grown at the prison) to prepackaged meals prepared off-site in prison-owned kitchens. The specific object of their ire: “breakfast boats.” Containing a a muffin, breakfast bar, peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a packet of oatmeal or cereal and packet of dried milk, the breakfast boats were distributed at dinner so the inmates could eat them the next morning. The Tri-City Herald reports that following the food strike and negotiations, corrections officials have now agreed to replace the muffin with a hard-boiled egg to improve the meal’s protein content. Officials also made concessions regarding TVs and exercise equipment, and a reported 96 percent of inmates are now back to eating the prison-served meals.