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What prison food in the US really looks like, and why some inmates refuse to eat it

What prison food in the US really looks like, and why some inmates refuse to eat it
  • The shirtless man in a fur hat who stormed the Capitol on January 6, Jake Angeli, is in federal custody, and he refuses to eat in detention because he is on an "extremely restrictive diet."
  • "He gets very sick if he doesn't eat organic food," his mother, Martha Chansley, said. "He needs to eat."
  • David Gonzales, US Marshal for the District of Arizona, told ABC15 that Angeli will receive food "in line with a shaman's strict organic diet."
  • Considering the emphasis correctional facilities make to save money on food, and the tendency for organic food to cost more, it's unlikely that many prisoners are served organic meals.
  • According to a number of prison watchdog groups, the options are notoriously awful in US jails and prisons, and some US inmates have gone on hunger strike to protest the horrid conditions.

Jake Angeli, a far-right Arizona conspiracy theorist known as the 'Q Shaman, is in federal custody after storming the Capitol on January 6, and his mom says he needs organic food.

Angeli was charged with disorderly conduct, violent entry, and illegally being in the Capitol, the Department of Justice announced on January 9.

Angeli refused the food provided to him in detention because of his "extremely restrictive diet."

"He gets very sick if he doesn't eat organic food," his mother, Martha Chansley, said. "He needs to eat."

Angeli will receive food "in line with a shaman's strict organic diet," David Gonzales, US Marshal for the District of Arizona, told ABC15.

It's unlikely, however, that the majority of US prisoners eat as well. Correctional facilities tend to emphasize saving money on food, and organic food is expensive. So inmates probably aren't served too many organic meals.

In fact, meals are notoriously awful in US jails and prisons.

Since the US has local, state, and federally-run jails and prisons, an inmate's plate varies depending on where they are in the country, 9 News reported.

Since the US has local, state, and federally-run jails and prisons, an inmate's plate varies depending on where they are in the country, 9 News reported.
Inmates eat breakfast in San Luis Obispo, California in 2013. Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Source: 9 News

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Cereal, fruit, bread, and sugar packets were on the breakfast menu for US inmates in 2020, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Cereal, fruit, bread, and sugar packets were on the breakfast menu for US inmates in 2020, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
A pre-made breakfast of Rice Krispy and peanut butter at the Anaheim Police Department jail in California in 2015. Jeff Gritchen/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images
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For lunch in US prisons, bread, a fruit, a vegetable, and some kind of protein, like beans, are standard.

For lunch in US prisons, bread, a fruit, a vegetable, and some kind of protein, like beans, are standard.
Immigrant detainees eat lunch at the Adelanto Detention Facility in California in 2013. John Moore/Getty Images
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Some US prisons spend less than $1 on each inmate's meal, the Marshall Project, a nonprofit publication that covers the US criminal justice system, reported in 2015.

Some US prisons spend less than $1 on each inmate's meal, the Marshall Project, a nonprofit publication that covers the US criminal justice system, reported in 2015.
Lunchtime in Boulder County Jail in 2014. Paul Aiken/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images
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Some inmates are so repulsed by certain meals that they skip them.

Some inmates are so repulsed by certain meals that they skip them.
Boulder County Sheriff's Deputy C. Mecca prepares meals for inmates at lunchtime at Boulder County Jail in 2015. Paul Aiken/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images
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Barbara, an inmate from A&E's documentary series "60 Days In," previously told Insider that the beans in jail were so "inedible" that she frequently skipped dinner and didn't eat until breakfast the next day.

Barbara, an inmate from A&E's documentary series "60 Days In," previously told Insider that the beans in jail were so "inedible" that she frequently skipped dinner and didn't eat until breakfast the next day.
Immigrant detainees eat lunch at the Adelanto Detention Facility in California in 2013. John Moore/Getty Images
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Another inmate on the show, Tami, called the prison meals "depressing."

Another inmate on the show, Tami, called the prison meals "depressing."
Bologna, two pieces of bread, mayonnaise, an apple, carrots, and crackers at the Theo Lacy Facility in Orange, California, in 2017. Jeff Gritchen/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images
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But prison food doesn't just taste bad - reports indicate that it's also making some inmates sick.

But prison food doesn't just taste bad - reports indicate that it's also making some inmates sick.
A guard serves lunch to an immigrant detainee in his 'segregation cell' during lunchtime at the Adelanto Detention Facility in California in 2013. John Moore/Getty Images
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A CDC study found that between 1998 and 2014, inmates suffered from a food-related illness 6.4 times more than the general population.

A CDC study found that between 1998 and 2014, inmates suffered from a food-related illness 6.4 times more than the general population.
An inmate prepares breakfast at the Maricopa County Tent City jail in Phoenix, Arizona, in 2013. John Moore/Getty Images
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The nutraloaf is a punishment meal given to some US inmates because it's so disgusting.

The nutraloaf is a punishment meal given to some US inmates because it's so disgusting.
A Nutraloaf from a Vermont prison includes bread, non-dairy cheese, raw carrots, spinach, seedless raisins, beans, vegetable oil, tomato paste, powdered milk, and potato flakes. AP Photo/Andy Duback

The brick-like meal is typically made from tomato paste, potato flakes, and beans, Business Insider previously reported.

While it has been banned in a handful of states, WUFT and Fox12 Oregon have reported as recently as 2017 that the horrible food is still being served in some states, like Florida and Oregon.

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Inmates at some US prisons have gone on hunger strikes to protest horrid conditions including the terrible food.

Inmates at some US prisons have gone on hunger strikes to protest horrid conditions including the terrible food.
Jose Flores and Eddie Ramirez attend a rally in Los Angeles in support of California inmates who spent weeks on a hunger strike to protest prison conditions in 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Source: The Guardian

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While prison meals in the US might look like the worst school lunch you've ever had ...

While prison meals in the US might look like the worst school lunch you've ever had ...
Lunch waits to be served to immigrant detainees in their 'segregation cells' at the Adelanto Detention Facility in Adelanto, California, in 2013. John Moore/Getty Images
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... other countries have it much better.

... other countries have it much better.
A prisoner looks on in the bakery in 2015 in Padova, Italy. Awakening/Getty Images

Source: Reuters

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One prison in Italy has a bakery inside of it where inmates make desserts like Panettone - a traditional Italian Christmas cake, Reuters reported in 2014.

One prison in Italy has a bakery inside of it where inmates make desserts like Panettone - a traditional Italian Christmas cake, Reuters reported in 2014.
Panettone cakes are seen on a rack at the Pasticceria Giotto in Padua's Due Palazzi prison in 2014. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

Source: Reuters

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A 2015 New York Times opinion piece reported that inmates in Germany had access to kitchens and were able to purchase fresh food with wages from vocational programs.

A 2015 New York Times opinion piece reported that inmates in Germany had access to kitchens and were able to purchase fresh food with wages from vocational programs.
Prisoner Atif eats his lunch in his prison cell at the Iserlohn prison in Germany in 2008. Christof Koepsel/Getty Images
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In "Incarceration Nations: A Journey to Justice in Prisons Around the World," Baz Dreisinger reports that a prison in Norway has its own nature reserve that grows 25% of the prison's food.

In "Incarceration Nations: A Journey to Justice in Prisons Around the World," Baz Dreisinger reports that a prison in Norway has its own nature reserve that grows 25% of the prison's food.
A general view of Halden prison in the far southeast of Norway is seen in this picture taken in 2010. REUTERS/Trond A. Isaksen
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We don't know what Angeli's organic meals in detention look like, but we doubt he's eating Nutraloaves.

We don't know what Angeli's organic meals in detention look like, but we doubt he's eating Nutraloaves.
Jake Angeli was detained after joining hundreds of others to storm the Capitol on January 6, 2020. Win McNamee/ Staff/ Getty Images
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