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Correcting Food Policy in Washington Prisons, Prison Voice Washington, 2016

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This report describes how the unhealthy food
served and sold to people incarcerated in state
prisons directly violates the state’s Healthy
Nutrition Guidelines and will lead to costly health
care expenditures on preventable diseases, in
violation of Executive Order 13-06. It offers
recommendations for achieving compliance with
EO 13-06 by establishing effective oversight to
ensure that the Department of Corrections makes
healthy nutrition possible for incarcerated people.

Correcting
Food Policy in
Washington Prisons
How the DOC Makes Healthy
Food Choices Impossible for
Incarcerated People & What Can
Be Done

Contents
Contents .............................................................................................................................................................. 1
Executive Summary ........................................................................................................................................... 3
I.

Background .............................................................................................................................................. 4
Food in the Department of Corrections (DOC): 1986-present ............................................................. 4
Health Care Costs from Preventable Dietary Diseases in DOC Facilities ............................................ 6
Executive Order 13-06 (October 2013-present)...................................................................................... 7

II.

Changes in Food Service under CI Management .................................................................................... 8

III.

How DOC Food Services Violate the Healthy Nutrition Guidelines .................................................... 10
The “Lighter Fare” Diet ......................................................................................................................... 17
Religious and Other Special Diets ........................................................................................................ 18

IV.

How Food Sold in DOC Facilities Violates the Healthy Nutrition Guidelines ..................................... 19
Commissaries ......................................................................................................................................... 19
Quarterly Packages ................................................................................................................................ 21
Canteens ................................................................................................................................................ 21
Vending Machines ................................................................................................................................. 21

V.

Further Considerations: Costs, the Environment, and Rehabilitation ................................................. 21
Cost ........................................................................................................................................................ 21
Environmental Impact ......................................................................................................................... 24

VI.

Recommendations ................................................................................................................................. 24
Immediate ............................................................................................................................................. 24
Longer Term (6-12 months) ................................................................................................................. 26

VII. Frequently Asked Questions ................................................................................................................. 27
Appendices ...................................................................................................................................................... 30

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KEY POINTS

The food served and sold to the 18,000 people incarcerated in Washington
state prisons is now unhealthier than it has ever been. It also violates Executive
Order 13-06 and the DOH Healthy Nutrition Guidelines, which apply to all state
agencies and institutions.

When the Department of Corrections turned over responsibility for food
services to Correctional Industries (CI), the DOC's business arm, it substituted
95% industrialized, plastic-wrapped, sugar-filled “food products” for locally
prepared healthy food. This has turned Washington prisons into state-sponsored
food deserts, with drastic reductions in fresh produce, lean protein, and whole
grains in the diet of incarcerated people.

This unhealthy diet encourages disadvantaged populations to eat poorly,
disproportionately impacts the health of people of color, and leads to increased
healthcare expenditures on preventable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension,
and heart disease.

The CI system of producing highly processed, packaged food in Spokane
and continually trucking it to prisons across the state is expensive and harmful
to the environment.

Recommendations

Responsibility for prison menu planning must be taken away from CI,
allowing a return to the healthier and cheaper alternative of cooking fresh,
nutritious, locally grown food from scratch at each institution. Expert dietitians,
not CI, must oversee the selection of food products for prison commissaries and
quarterly packages.

The Governor should empower DOH to evaluate and monitor DOC’s
compliance with the Healthy Nutrition Guidelines, not only administratively or
by survey, but by careful attention to what is actually served.

The topics covered in this report are limited to the scope of Executive
Order 13-06 and DOH’s Healthy Nutrition Guidelines. DOH is receptive to
suggestions for improvement and plans to update its Healthy Nutrition Guidelines
in 2017, but additional orders from the Governor may be necessary to bring
DOC’s food system up to the standards of Washington’s local farm and food
model.

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Executive Summary
The food served and sold to people incarcerated in state prisons is now unhealthier than it has ever
been. DOC policies and practices violate the state’s Healthy Nutrition Guidelines, encourage
disadvantaged populations to eat poorly, damage the environment, have a disproportionate
adverse health impact on African Americans, and will lead to increased healthcare expenditures on
preventable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. In 2013, under the mandate
of Governor Inslee’s Executive Order 13-06, the Department of Health (DOH) promulgated Healthy
Nutrition Guidelines for institutions, announcing that “Washington State supports healthy living by
ensuring state facilities and agencies offer, purchase, and serve healthy food and beverages. We are making
the healthy choice the easy choice.” In reality, the Department of Corrections (DOC), working through a
decades-long Correctional Industries (CI) takeover of food services, commissaries, and food package
programs, has implemented policies that systematically deny healthy choices to the incarcerated, their
families, and the staff who eat institutional food. Unlike others affected by state food policies, the
incarcerated can eat only what DOC makes available. The new policies have eliminated the cooking from
scratch of locally grown food (“farm-to-table”) to impose an industrial model that damages both health
and the environment through the plastic packaging and transporting of highly processed food products
How did this happen? The answer is twofold: (1) absence of any real oversight authority given to DOH
under Executive Order 13-06, and (2) institutional disregard for the health of the incarcerated1 in an
organizational structure that prevents DOC Health Services from enforcing compliance with nutritional
standards. The DOH Guidelines fail to address the commissaries and food packages through which
incarcerated people buy food. Even where standards have been explicitly set, DOH has been given no
means by which to ensure compliance, and institutional food service venues were entirely left out of
evaluations conducted by the University of Washington's Center for Public Health Nutrition (CPHN).
Instead, DOH has relied on the fact that DOC has “anecdotally reported” that it is “either fully implemented
or close to full implementation across their institutional food service venues.”
The only action currently proposed by DOH for ongoing monitoring and evaluation of DOC
implementation of the Healthy Nutrition Guidelines is “through a survey disseminated to the point-person
by September 2016.” These surveys are voluntary and cannot ensure guideline implementation. DOC has a
culture of disregard for the wellbeing of the incarcerated2, and the DOC dietician has been able to do
nothing to prevent DOC from flouting the Guidelines in its institutional food service venues, vending
machines, commissaries, canteens, and food package programs.
What can be done? Active and ongoing collaboration between DOH and DOC in menu and food product
planning is the key. The governor should empower DOH and the DOC Program Manager of Dietary
Services to begin robust evaluation of DOC's institutional food services, commissaries, canteens, and food
package programs to ensure compliance with the Guidelines. DOC must make certain that qualified
nutritional experts, not CI factory managers, design the menu and monitor its implementation by Food
Services. DOH should collaborate with the CPHN to ensure that evaluations include careful analysis of
what is actually being served rather than what Food Services claims is served. DOC food venues must cease
using industrial food products and instead return to cooking fresh, nutritious food from scratch as outlined

2

DOC disregard for the health and well-being of the incarcerated is well-documented. On November 17, 2015, a classaction lawsuit was filed against DOC in response to widespread denials of medical care to incarcerated people in
Washington. See Haldane v. Hammond, United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, Case
No. 2:15 - cv - 01810 - RAJ

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in the Healthy Nutrition Guidelines Implementation Guide. DOH must also issue guidelines to regulate
the food made available from commissaries and quarterly food packages so that unprocessed whole foods—
whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean protein—are available and that healthy choices become, if not
easy, at least possible for incarcerated people.

I.

Background

Food in the Department of Corrections (DOC): 1986-present
1.

Institutional Food Service Menus

Thirty years ago, Washington State’s Department of Corrections could legitimately take pride in its food
services menu. While prison food was never gourmet, it was not fundamentally different from ordinary
household food. Prisons grew their own food, maintained dairies and bakeries, and the food—real food,
not processed food “product”—was cooked locally. Incarcerated people learned to cook and bake
professionally. Washington prisons served low-fat milk and whole-grain cereals such as oatmeal and
cracked wheat at breakfast, and salad greens and vegetables at dinner. Skillful local food managers could
save the state money by making intelligent choices about where to buy their produce, often contracting
with local farmers and buying large quantities when prices were low.3 Local facility Consolidated Food
Managers were able to save DOC over $20,000 per month by using multiple local contractors.4 Taking pride
in their work, they were able to offer incarcerated people a good variety of whole grains, fruits, vegetables
and unprocessed meats, including such healthy items as salmon, chicken, spinach, broccoli, blueberries,
and yogurt.
In 1995, however, DOC Food Services began to deteriorate after the state decided to turn to Correctional
Industries (CI), the state-run prison-industrial conglomerate. CI was supposed to save the state money by
concentrating all food production at a single DOC Food Factory at the Airway Heights Correctional Center.
Local prison facility bakeries, dairies, and farms were shuttered. Problems were noted from the outset. State
health department inspectors, responding to a barrage of complaints, cited the food factory for foodhandling violations in 1996. Contracts were cancelled and senior administrators were fired. Yet the
industrialization continued. Two decades ago, the environmental costs imposed by this model—which
involves shipping food to a central location only to package, process, and ship it back to other facilities—
were little appreciated. Policymakers also did not understand the deleterious effect on human health of
exclusively consuming processed food containing added sugar, sodium, and soy every single day for many
years.
Once the first food factory became operational, DOC steadily began demanding that its local food
managers buy an ever greater percentage of their food from the CI Food Factory—even when other sources
of food were both cheaper and more nutritious. At first it was only 5%, then 15%, and then 51%. Some food
managers had concerns that declining food quality posed a security risk by creating unrest in the
incarcerated population.5 Many resisted the changes, and some ultimately resigned, but the policy
continued. Today, over 95% of the foods served in DOC institutions are from CI, and CI has opened a
second food factory at the Coyote Ridge Correctional Center.

3

See “John Holeman: Corrections Champ”, Foodservice Director, February 5, 2009
See “John Holeman: Miracleworker”, Foodservice Director, April 15, 2004
5
Ibid.
4

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“Paradigm Shift”
In a “success story” printed in the Healthy Nutrition Guidelines Implementation Guide about his having
reduced sodium from 3,600mg to 3,000mg—a level still 25% over the limit under the Guidelines and double
the recommended intake for African Americans6—Brent Carney, DOC’s Health Services Program Manager
for Dietary Services, reports that as recently as 2009, “all 15 prisons in the state were preparing and cooking
meals in their kitchens.” This would change dramatically in the following years. As Carney reports, “DOC
decided to change their paradigm in how they produced meals. DOC decided that our revenue branch—
Correctional Industries would start producing the bulk of the meals served instead of letting each
prison’s kitchen prepare the menu on site.” Incarcerated people were relegated either to food
processing jobs at the factory or to reheating precooked, processed, packaged food items from the factory.
As Program Manager for Dietary Services, Carney raised concerns. “I wasn’t happy about this paradigm
shift because I was concerned that the quality of the food would not be as nutritious as the foods
being prepared fresh in each prison’s kitchen.” This has proven to be an understatement, to say the
least. Although Carney touts the benefits of uniformity in the sodium content of meals achieved by central
production, each prison’s staff continues to modify the diet with added sodium-heavy seasonings. At the
same time, this uniformity has stripped the menu of the nutritious food that institutional kitchens were
able to provide in the past—by replacing breakfast with packaged “boats” and freshly cooked meals with
processed industrial food products. Meanwhile, DOC takes public officials on tours of a few small gardens
at some facilities, presenting a rosy veneer of sustainability and fresh produce to circumvent any real
scrutiny of the bleak food reality in Washington prisons.
2.

Commissaries and Quarterly Food Packages

The other sources of food for incarcerated people—specifically, for those who have jobs or savings, or
whose friends and families can afford it—are the prison commissaries, through which those in prison can
purchase food bimonthly, and the quarterly food packages that incarcerated people or their families and
friends can purchase once every three months.
A typical prison commissary list (Appendix A) includes over 175 food items. All items are non-refrigerated,
prepackaged food items, since incarcerated people lack refrigerators in which to store perishable items.
Commissary lists have not changed much, apart from rising prices7, and have never had a good selection
of healthy items.
While commissaries have changed relatively little, the food packages have changed drastically in the past
ten years. In the 1990s, incarcerated people could obtain a wide variety of food from a number of ordinary
and specialty grocery stores, such as Safeway, Albertson’s, and Uwajimaya. However, in the 2000s, DOC
severely limited the vendors from which incarcerated people could choose—situation CI as a middleman
between families and vendors that benefits from markup profits. Today, CI has complete control of the
food packages which are contracted to the private corporation Union Supply Direct three times a year
(Appendix B) and to another contractor, Access Securepak, for a “holiday” food package (Appendix C) once
per year8. DOC has complete control over what food it makes available, and what it has chosen to provide
from these vendors is an enormous selection of debilitating junk food, including dozens of varieties of
candy, sugar drink mixes, processed high-fat, high-sodium meats, sugar-coated breakfast cereal, refined
6

See Peters, Rosalind M., and John M. Flack. "Salt sensitivity and hypertension in African Americans." Progress in
Cardiovascular Nursing 15.4 (2000): 138-144.
7
For those incarcerated people fortunate enough to be employed under the estimated >80% prison unemployment
rate, hourly gratuities (the official term for prison wages) are in most cases less than $1 per hour. Yet commissary
prices are similar to those the general public pays for equivalent items.
8
CI is currently in the process of transitioning to Hickory Farms as its holiday package vendor.

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flour crackers, and cookies. There are no real healthy choices whatsoever, the best options being some
packaged fish and roasted, salted pistachios. (See Appendices B and C).

Healthcare Costs from Preventable Dietary Diseases in DOC Facilities
Many people are surprised to learn that healthcare costs constitute a far larger portion of the overall cost
of incarcerating a person than food does. In 2011, healthcare represented $17.99 of the $94.84 average daily
cost, or almost 19% of the total bill.9 According to DOC’s 2012 Annual Report to the Legislature “Health
Services Cost Containment,” diabetes and hypertension are among the top five chronic care areas for
incarcerated people.

Diabetes is second only to mental illness, while hypertension ranked fourth on the list. According to the
American Diabetes Association, an estimated additional $25,675 is spent annually on diabetes-related
9

“Are We Paying Too Much for Prisoners?” Everett Herald, April 20, 2011

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health care per incarcerated person with diabetes.10 While less costly initially, hypertension leads to even
more expensive interventions if heart disease results, as it frequently does. Poor nutrition is a primary
contributing cause for both these preventable diseases.
Given that Washington prisons house a large elderly population, and that 1,383 of the approximately 18,000
people in DOC custody are serving de facto or actual life without parole sentences11, investing in nutrition
as preventative care would be a fiscally responsible action.
The costs of treating these diseases dwarfs the preventative care cost of providing a healthier diet to
incarcerated people, but Health Services personnel play virtually no role in shaping the diet served to
incarcerated people. As discussed above, Brent Carney, DOC Health Services Program Manager for Dietary
Services and the most senior dietician in the agency, was unable to prevent DOC from adopting an
industrial food model that he knew would decrease the nutritional quality of the food. Health Services has
thus been relegated to issuing a medical diet when a disease finally results from the poor “mainline” diet.12
For the most part, this is a “lighter fare” diet that increases some of the vegetables, while decreasing the
amount of main course entrées and eliminating potatoes and wheat rolls. In recent years, DOC abolished
the facility dietician staff position. These facility dieticians had helped provide guidance to Food Services
in the preparation of healthier food. Now, Health Services plays no role in Food Services, nor in determining
the content of the commissaries or food package programs.

Executive Order 13-06 (October 2013-present)
In October 2013, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed Executive Order 13-06 (EO 13-06), “Improving the
Health and Productivity of State Employees and Access to Healthy Foods in State Facilities.” Noting that
“chronic conditions such as heart disease, stroke, obesity, and diabetes are largely preventable,” and with
the intention of improving health and thereby reducing state health care costs, EO 13-06 directed all state
agencies, including the Department of Corrections, to adopt and implement food and beverage service
policies that meet the Washington State Healthy Nutrition Guidelines (“Guidelines”), which were created
concurrently with EO 13-06 and are based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 (DGA). EO 13-06
states that the policies and guidelines shall ensure for the provision of healthful food and beverages in all
food venues, including vending machines, cafeterias, on-site retail establishments, and, importantly, in
institutional food service sites, specifically including those serving “students, custodial populations, and
residents.” EO 13-06 encompasses all food and beverages served or sold by any state agency, and it also
promotes Washington-grown products whenever practical. Policies should be fully implemented by
December 31, 2016, with the Department of Health named as the lead agency in promoting the guidelines
and providing technical assistance on development and implementation of food and beverage service
policies.
In January 2014, the Food Procurement Workgroup, which was led by Colleen Arceneaux, the Healthy
Eating Coordinator in the Department of Health’s Office of Healthy Communities, and which included
Brent Carney, DOC Health Services Division Program Manager for Dietary Services, issued Healthy
Nutrition Guidelines separately addressing the standards for Vending Machines, Cafeterias, Meetings and
Events, and Institutions. The three-page Healthy Nutrition Guidelines for Institutions document
10

Firth, Caislin Leah, et al. "Female Inmates with Diabetes: Results from Changes in a Prison Food Environment."
Women's Health Issues 25.6 (2015): 732-738.
11
See the University of Washington’s Law, Societies, and Justice report: “Life Without Parole Sentences in Washington
State”.
12
The term “mainline” denotes the regular food served to the majority of incarcerated people, as distinct from diets
ordered for religious or medical reasons, such as the kosher, halal, and vegan diets and diabetic snack-supplemented
diets.

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announces in bold at the top that “Washington State supports healthy living by ensuring state facilities and
agencies offer, purchase and serve healthy food and beverages. We are making the healthy choice the easy
choice.” The Guidelines specifically encompass food and beverages provided in institutions to clients,
incarcerated people, and patients by DOC and Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). The
Guidelines for Institutions comprise five major sections: Section A addresses Food and Beverage Standards
for Meals, Section B covers Scheduled Snacks, Section C addresses Standard Principles, Section D outlines
Exceptions for Specific Population Groups, and Section E sets out guidelines for Celebratory and Special
Occasions. In addition, the DOH issued an Implementation Guide for Agencies, Sites and Vendors that
specifically addresses what DOC would need to do to comply with the Guidelines.
However, the March 2016 report prepared by the Washington State Department of Health on
“Implementation of Food and Beverage Service Policies in State Agencies” reveals that institutions were
excluded from the baseline and mid-implementation evaluations conducted by the Center for Public
Health Nutrition (CPHN), due to insufficient funding from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Instead,
DOH relied on a “designated wellness coordinator” within DOC “to supply information on policy adoption
and implementation,” and DOC “anecdotally reported” that it is “either fully implemented or close to full
implementation across their institutional food service venues” (See “Executive Order 13-06:
Implementation of Food and Beverage Service Policies in State Agencies,” March 2016, pgs. 5, 8). Clearly,
DOC’s anecdotal “self-reporting” is insufficient and unacceptable. The only action currently proposed by
DOH for ongoing monitoring and evaluation of DOC institutions is “through a survey disseminated to the
point-person by September 2016.”

II.

Changes in Food Service under CI Management

Perhaps the most striking change implemented in recent years is the replacement of freshly cooked
breakfast with a factory-packaged breakfast “boat” that is mostly sugar and starch. CI replaced what
had been one of the healthier meals served in prisons, usually including fresh fruit, lowfat milk, oatmeal,
and eggs, with a plastic-wrapped “boat” (so-called for the shape of the cardboard container holding the
items) that incarcerated people collect at their evening meals. These boats contain a single serving of nonfat
milk, an aspartame-sweetened, fortified drink mix (intended to compensate for DOC’s failure to provide
all nutrients from real food), a serving of processed, usually sugar-coated, breakfast cereal, a breakfast bar
that contains large quantities of sugar and chemical preservatives, a sugary muffin, and a peanut-butter
and jelly sandwich. Like the CI diet generally, these items are almost entirely sugar, starch, and fat. In fact,
apart from the single serving of nonfat milk (no Vitamin D added), every item in the boats contains added
sugar. The peanut butter is not all natural peanut butter but rather is a mixture of peanuts, hydrogenated
vegetable oil, and sugars.
The breakfast bars are supposed to contain replacement for fruit, but one of the bars (the chocolate)
contains no fruit at all, and the jelly is flavored sugar. These boats constitute the sole breakfast option that
CI Food Services serves to incarcerated people, without any variation except in the flavor of the breakfast
bar and the kind of cereal. Of the five varieties of cereal served, all contain added sugar except for corn
flakes and Toasty Os (toasted oats cereal). Nearly a third of calories come from sugar with only 10% from
protein.
The most important change in all the food served to the incarcerated is that all of it is processed. This is
not an exaggeration. As CI took over food services around the state, it gradually eliminated all freshly
prepared, natural food. Without exception, every single main course is now a reheated, highly
processed CI product with high amounts of sodium. Apart from the occasional serving of beans, lean,
natural proteins are never served at any meal. Unprocessed meat is never served. Among the meals
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eliminated in the last decade are all that involved unprocessed food: chicken, tuna, salmon, beef, eggs,
oatmeal, and milk are no longer served. The last remaining meals prepared from fresh food were the
chicken salad and tuna salad sandwiches, which were made from scratch using unprocessed chicken and
canned tuna with fresh onions and celery. Repeated requests to add these meals back to the menu have all
been rejected.
Instead of a variety of fresh vegetables, CI almost exclusively serves celery and carrots for vegetables.
Spinach, squash, radishes, and other nutritious vegetables are wholly absent from the CI menu. All 100%
whole-grain products have been eliminated. Oatmeal and cracked wheat, along with whole-wheat
bread, have been completely eliminated from the institutional menu. What remains are partial wholegrain and refined white flour products.
The most important change for workers in Food Services is that, while CI claims that it is training
incarcerated people for the jobs of the future, cooking job positions have been eliminated. Except for
workers at the Food Factory, Food Services workers now simply reheat processed food, package
processed food, or bundle packages of processed foods. Others pick up the garbage, which is
considerable, given the amount of plastic packaging. Instead of learning marketable culinary skills that
might lead to a career, they are universally engaged in performing entry-level low-skill assembly-line work
that cannot sustain a living wage.

Figure 1: Nutritional label for Correctional Industries peanut butter packets

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Figure 2: Correctional Industries processed Breakfast "Boats" have replaced freshly cooked breakfasts in
Washington Prisons

III.

How DOC Food Services Violate the Healthy Nutrition Guidelines

The DOH Implementation Guide (issued over two years ago in February 2014) provides both an in-text
(page O-5) and online template for the complete text of model policy language Executive Order 13-06
requires DOC to adopt, yet DOC’s current policy on food served to incarcerated people has yet to reflect
any awareness of the Healthy Nutrition Guidelines. DOC Policy 240.100 sets out its own Guidelines for
Mainline Meals (GMM), which establish specific caloric guidelines (2,700-3,000 calories for men, 2,0002,100 for women) and individual nutrient recommendations (protein, fiber, calcium, Vitamin C, and others)
as well as limits for sodium (2400 mg), saturated fat (< 10% of calories) and cholesterol (<300 mg).

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Figure 3: Pg. O-5 of the Healthy Nutrition Guidelines Implementation Guide provides model policy language for
state agencies to design food policy for custodial populations.
Since it affects the large majority of incarcerated people, this report focuses on the 28-day 2800-calorieper-day CI Statewide Mainline Menu for incarcerated men (Appendix D). (The diet for incarcerated
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women, it should be noted, suffers from many of the same defects.) As will be discussed further on, the CI
menu nutritional information often significantly misstates the nutritional value of the foods actually served
to incarcerated people, but for the purposes of this analysis the claims of the menu will be taken at face
value.
The core of DOH Healthy Nutrition Guidelines for Institutions comprises two sections: the Food and
Beverage Standards for Meals (Section A) and the Standard Principles (Section C). These sections govern
the meals provided to people incarcerated in DOC institutions.

Section A: Minimum Standards for Meals
Section A lists minimum required amounts of fruit, vegetables, grains, protein, milk products, and
beverages to be provided daily. The Guidelines state explicitly that “if these standards are met, individual
nutrient needs should be met as well”—that is, there will be no need for nutritional supplementation. This
would be true if the DOH Guidelines were based, as the Guidelines claim, on the appropriate
recommendation in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Dietary Guidelines for America, 2010 (DGA).
Unfortunately, the Section A guideline requirements are based on the recommendations appropriate for a
2000-calorie diet. As such, they dramatically undershoot the actual DGA requirements for the 2800-calorieper-day menu for incarcerated men.
Nevertheless, even taking the claims made by CI at face value and using the lower guideline requirements,
the CI statewide mainline menu directly violates the DOH Guidelines on nearly every count.
Specifically:
Fruits:

The actual DGA requirement for a 2800-calorie diet is 2½ cups of fruit daily. DOH
Guidelines, however, only require “a minimum of 2 cups of fruit daily.” A small baseballsized piece of fruit (such as the ordinary apple, orange, or banana predominantly served to
incarcerated people) is considered a half-cup serving of fruit (DGA, pg. 80). Food Services
would therefore need to serve 4 such pieces of fruit to meet the requirement.
Before the introduction of breakfast boats, incarcerated people received 3 pieces of fruit,
which was still too low, but since the boats are not served with a piece of fruit, incarcerated
people now receive only 2 pieces of fruit, for a total of one cup of fruit daily. Incarcerated
people now receive half of the minimum quantity of fruit required by the
Guidelines. It should be noted that when previously frozen apples, bananas, and oranges
are served they are mostly left uneaten and trashed.

Vegetables:

DOH Guidelines require “a minimum of 2½ cups of vegetables daily” and “a variety of
vegetables, especially dark-green, red and orange, and beans and peas. See DGA 2010 for
details.” Remarkably, the Statewide Menu is most flagrantly deficient in the specific
nutritionally important varieties of vegetables that the Guidelines single out for mention.
As noted above, the DOH Guidelines minimum of 2½ cups is too low for a 2800-calorie diet:
the DGA 2010 detailed distribution for a 2800-calorie diet is based on a higher recommended
minimum of 3½ cups of vegetables daily. Table 1 (below) therefore shows both the real DGA
requirement and the adjusted lower minimum amount of vegetables required by the DOH
Guidelines (an amount which would really only be appropriate for a 2000-calorie diet), with
the Food Service provision in red if it does not meet even that reduced minimum.
As Table 1 illustrates, Food Services does not meet DGA vegetable requirements in any
category. Incarcerated people do not receive even the lower minimum in any category
other than starchy vegetables:

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Table 1. Detailed Vegetable Distribution Requirement (measured in cups per 28-day period)
Vegetables by DGA Category

DGA
minimum

Adjusted DOH
Guideline Minimum†

Food Services
Menu Provision

Detailed Breakdown

Dark Green Vegetables

10

6

2½

all broccoli

Red & Orange Vegetables

28

22

9¾

carrots: 7¼
tomato salsa: 1½
carrots in “mixed”: 1*

Beans & Peas

10

6

5½

all beans
potato: 19
corn: 1½
green peas: 2½
peas & corn in “mixed”: 2*

Starchy Vegetables

28

20

25

Other Vegetables

22

16

18½

All Vegetables

98

70

61¼

Vegetables per day

3½

2½

2.19

celery: 8½
lettuce‡: 7¼

onions: ¼
green beans: 2½

* Since “mixed” vegetables are a relatively equal mixture of corn, green peas, and carrots, for the purposes of this table the 3 cups
of mixed vegetables served every 28 days have been allocated into the appropriate categories (1 cup red & orange, 2 cups starchy).
†

DOH will need to update the Healthy Nutrition Guidelines to reflect a 2,800-calorie diet. DOC cannot be counted on to make the
calculations by extrapolation.
‡A

cup of lettuce counts as a half cup of vegetables (DGA 2010, pg. 79)

Note that green beans are considered “other vegetables” and green peas are considered starchy vegetables (DGA 2010, pg. 35).
Again, the breakfast boats contain no vegetables. At lunch, incarcerated people receive a
half-cup portion of carrots or celery every day without variation. At dinner, a half-cup
portion of nutritionally empty iceberg lettuce laden with “dressing” (misleadingly described
in the menu as “Vegetable Salad”) is served together with a half-cup portion of one of the
following cooked vegetables: peas, carrots, corn, a combination of the first three called
“mixed vegetables,” green beans, and only five times every 28 days, broccoli. In the past,
incarcerated people were served good portions of a variety of vegetables, including fresh
broccoli, steamed spinach, squash, etc. That has all but ceased.
Today, incarcerated people receive a quarter of the DGA minimum for dark green
vegetables and less than 40% of the minimum under the Guidelines; a third of the
DGA minimum of red and orange vegetables and less than half of what is required
under the Guidelines. Despite receiving excess amounts of starchy vegetables and
nutritionally marginal vegetables such as lettuce and celery, they never meet the
minimum weekly quantities for any of the critical varieties specified by the DOH
Guidelines (dark green, red and orange, beans and peas).

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Figure 4: Correctional Industries iceberg lettuce salads are served to incarcerated people coated in sugary, oily
dressings
Grains:

The actual DGA requirement for a 2800-calorie diet is 10 oz. of grains daily, with 50% being
whole grains. DOH Guidelines require approximately 6 oz. grains daily with “at least 50%
whole grains in each serving.” To be sure, the CI menu does not skimp on grain-based
products, serving much more than 6 oz. daily, but the grain products served are almost
exclusively refined starches. CI never serves any 100% whole-grain products. The only
rice and pasta served are white rice and white flour pasta. During each 28-day menu
rotation, CI serves 100% refined grain products 27 times. CI claims that its rolls and bread
meet the technical requirements for being 50% whole grain because whole grains are the
first ingredient, but these products often contain less than 50% whole grain flour. In
addition, all CI products use white wheat, rather than the more familiar red wheat, and
white wheat lacks the beneficial dark phytochemicals found in red wheat.13 Ultimately,
incarcerated people are mostly served either 100% refined grain products or receive
grain products that do not meet, or barely meet, the Guidelines requirements at
every meal. The result is that incarcerated people never receive the minimum 50%
whole grains required by the Guidelines.

Protein:

This is perhaps the most serious deficiency in the diet. The actual DGA requirement for a
2800-calorie diet is 7 oz. of a variety of lean protein foods daily. DOH Guidelines require
approximately 5½ oz. of protein with “a variety of lean proteins including meat, poultry,
eggs, fish, seafood, beans, peas, nuts, seeds, and soy products.” However, the DGA specifies
that “Beans and peas are considered part of this group as well as the vegetable group, but
should be counted in one group only.” Since the CI Statewide Menu never provides enough

13

See Sizer, Frances Sienkiewicz, et al. Nutrition: concepts and controversies. Cengage Learning, 2013.

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beans and peas to fulfill the vegetable requirement, none of those beans and peas should be
counted toward the lean protein requirement.

Table 2. Protein Distribution Recommendation (measured in ounces per 28-day period)
Lean Protein

DGA
minimum

Adjusted DOH
Guideline Minimum

Food Services
Menu Provision

Detailed Breakdown

Seafood

44

32

0

None

Meat, Poultry, Eggs

136

104

?†

?†

Nuts, Seeds, Soy Products

20

16

28*

all peanut butter

All Protein Foods

200

152

?†

Protein Foods Per Day

7

5½

?†

*Soy products are present in nearly all the processed CI food products, so it is difficult to estimate the total amount being
served. This quantity is a minimum.
†

Because CI recipes instruct factory workers to mix beans, crumbled TVP, and finely chopped processed meat protein into
sauces, white pasta, or wraps, there is no accurate way to assess protein content of individual servings.
Remarkably, CI almost never serves lean protein, and it never serves fish, seafood, or
seeds.14 The word “turkey” in the menu does not denote actual turkey meat, but rather an
artificially processed and formed product that contains some turkey material. The only
unprocessed lean protein offered is simmered beans, and that is offered only five times every
28 days. All meat is processed with textured vegetable protein (TVP) and other adulterants
in high-sodium, highly processed food products such as “hamburger,” “Salisbury steak,” or
“meatloaf” patties that contain far more fat than protein, in “wraps,” or in processed CI
turkey “sauces” of various kinds. The consequences of never serving simple, lean meat or
eggs are severe for incarcerated people because they can never meet their protein
requirements without eating unhealthy amounts of fat and starch. According to DOC
GMM, prisoners should receive between 70 and 110 grams of protein daily. DOC counts
protein of no biological value (the indigestible proteins in celery, for example) in meeting
this value. Even so, the requirement is seldom if ever met, and it can never be met by
incarcerated people without consuming the unhealthy sauces and condiments in which
protein is buried by CI, with excessive calories, sodium, fat, sugar, and refined flour.

14

The absence of fish, nuts, and seeds in CI menu items deprives incarcerated people of the omega-3 fatty acids crucial
to brain function, mental health, and nonviolent behavior. See “Omega-3, junk food and the link between violence
and what we eat”, The Guardian, October 17, 2006.

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Figure 5: Correctional Industries does not serve unadulterated lean protein to incarcerated people.

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Dairy:

The DOH Guidelines specify low-fat or nonfat milk, and note that “the DGA 2010
recommendation is that adults consume 3 cups daily.” DOC used to offer unlimited milk at
breakfast. This was reduced to two cups and then one cup. Now incarcerated people receive
a single cup of nonfat powdered milk in their boats. Incarcerated people never receive
the 3 cups of milk recommended by the DGA per DOH Guidelines.

Section C: Standard Guiding Principles
The CI Statewide Menu not only fails to meet the basic minimum requirements enunciated in Section A,
but also flouts the standard guiding principles designed to ensure healthy nutrition. Three of the five key
principles are:




Emphasize fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Use less processed foods that do not contain added sugar and sodium.
Use healthy cooking techniques such as baking, roasting, broiling, grilling, poaching,
steaming, and stir frying.

As the Implementation Guide created by the Department of Health makes clear, using “less processed foods
that do not contain added sugar and sodium” means cooking from scratch as much as possible (Healthy
Nutrition Guidelines Implementation Guide, I-5). Remarkably, DOC food policies adopted in the past few
years have actually eliminated cooking from scratch and instead introduced a menu that relies completely
on processed food containing added sugar and sodium. Much of this food, not to mention the taxpayer
money that purchases it, ends up dumped into the prison garbage cans. At a Sustainability in Prisons
Project site that composts food at one Washington prison, difficulties were encountered when even
compost worms would not eat certain types of highly processed CI food.
The DOH has provided state agencies with an online template for model vendor contract language to
ensure vendors provide state agencies with food products that meet the standards of the Healthy Nutrition
Guidelines. However, DOC and CI seem to have ignored this template, and have not required vendors to
provide products that meet the standards of the Healthy Nutrition Guidelines.
Because the processed food products served on the CI Statewide Menu are so unpalatable, they are usually
not reheated according to the specifications for use assumed by the dietician when calculating the
nutritional values. Instead, CI Food Service workers attempt to fry the ingredients in oil or margarine. As
a result, items like Salisbury steak and meatloaf patties, which already contain more fat than protein, are
served to incarcerated people literally soaked in oil and margarine.

Supplementation
DOC is well aware its diet does not provide sufficient micronutrients. The CI diet is supplemented with
aspartame-sweetened, fortified drink powder packets at meals. Many incarcerated people do not consume
these mixes. Dietary guidelines are meant to meet nutritional requirements without supplementation. It
is contrary to the spirit of the Healthy Nutrition Guidelines for such supplementation to be required to
meet individual nutrient needs. The Healthy Nutrition Guidelines emphasize deriving nutrients from fresh
fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, while the CI diet emphasizes refined flour and sugar.

Figure 6: CI's Bernard Food Industries fortified drink mix ingredients

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Figure 7: Cost of fortified drink powder mix for one DOC facility's April 2015 order
Disparate Impact on African Americans, Older People, and the Medically Vulnerable
African Americans and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to the elevated levels of sodium that cannot
be avoided in a diet based on processed food. One of the key recommendations of the DGA 2010 is to
“Reduce daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) and further reduce intake to 1,500 mg
among person who are 51 and older and those of any age who are African American or have hypertension,
diabetes, or chronic kidney disease. The 1,500 mg recommendation applies to about half of the U.S.
population, including children, and the majority of adults” (DGA pg. 21). Considering that DOC
incarcerates a disproportionate number of African Americans and a large aging population of lifesentenced incarcerated people, it is irresponsible to adopt food practices that do especial harm to the health
of these populations.

The “Lighter Fare” Diet
The CI Statewide Mainline Menu has a column listing adjustments for a so-called “Lighter Fare” diet. This
diet represents an improvement in some respects on the mainline diet because it doubles the amount of
good vegetables provided at a given meal (e.g., broccoli and carrots), provides an additional piece of fruit
daily, eliminates the cookies, cupcakes, and wheat rolls, and halves the amount of potatoes and white rice
served. Unfortunately, the “lighter fare” diet reduces the already unacceptably low amount of protein in
the diet, offering only two-thirds of the usual serving of the main course. As a result, this is not a viable
way for prisoners to meet nutritional goals, even when such a diet is ordered by Health Services.

Religious and Other Special Diets
While this report focuses on the mainline diet, many of the nutritional deficiencies noted are exacerbated
in the religious and other special diets. In particular, the prepackaged kosher meals rely excessively on
artificially derived soy protein. Excess soy protein has been shown to cause serious medical problems such
as hyperthyroidism.15

15

See Sathyapalan et al. "The effect of soy phytoestrogen supplementation on thyroid status and cardiovascular risk
markers in patients with subclinical hypothyroidism." The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 96.5 (2011):
1442-1449.

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IV.

How Food Sold in DOC Facilities Violates the Healthy Nutrition
Guidelines

As the Healthy Nutrition Guidelines recognize, Governor Inslee’s EO 13-06 encompasses all the food served
and sold by any state agency: the Guidelines aim to “ensure that state agencies offer, purchase, and serve
healthy food and beverages.” Unfortunately, the Healthy Nutrition Guidelines for Institutions fails to
specifically address commissaries, food packages, canteens, or vending machines in DOC institutions.

Commissaries
Commissaries are the stores through which incarcerated people purchase items from their prison trust
accounts. DOC Policy 200.210 governs the operation of the commissaries and at present it reflects no
awareness of the Healthy Nutrition Guidelines. More than 90% of the items—such as chocolate bars, jelly
beans, doughnuts, cookies, syrup, potato chips, refined white flour crackers, cake frosting, and
marshmallows—are very unhealthy, and are categorized as “Avoid” in the Healthy Nutrition Guidelines for
Vending Machines: chocolate bars, jelly beans, doughnuts, cookies, syrup, potato chips, refined white flour
crackers, cake frosting, marshmallows, etc. CI enjoys an extremely high markup value on many of these
items, and does not take nutritional standards into consideration. Only a handful of items among the
nearly two hundred items offered meet the criteria established by the Guidelines for foods designated
“Healthiest,” among them nonfat dry milk, jack mackerel, and chicken. Even the oatmeal sold is the kind
of instant oatmeal that is on the “Not Recommended” list in the Healthy Nutrition Guidelines
Implementation Guide (R-7). There are many healthy, inexpensive, nonperishable foods that could be sold
in commissarries: dry beans and lentils, which incarcerated people could soak overnight and cook in the
microwaves; unroasted, unsalted nuts such as walnuts, pistachios, and almonds; unsweetened and unsalted
100% whole grain foods such as rye crackers (Ryvita®) and whole-grain wheat cereals (Quaker® 3-Minute
Steel Cut Oats) and crackers (Triscuit®); 100% fruit spreads; low-sodium fish and low-sodium meat jerky;
dehydrated fruit (Peeled Snacks® and Just Fruit®, for example); and dehydrated vegetables, including kale,
seaweed (kelp), and spinach.
Healthy choices are, for the most part, not being increased. Although CI was persuaded to add a few new
small vegetable products to the October 1, 2016 commissary order form, other commissary products have
become unhealthier. Recently, the V8 Fusion juice (which, as 100% fruit and vegetable juice, would qualify
as “Healthiest”) was inexplicably replaced with V8 Splash, which is 10% fruit juice and 90% sugar and highfructose corn syrup flavored water. Thus, incarcerated people have no way to purchase the recommended
foods and beverages promoted by the Healthy Nutrition Guidelines. They are forced to rely on
supplements because DOC has completely eliminated omega-3 rich fish and other healthy foods. While
DOC makes supplements such as fish oil, calcium, multivitamins, glucosamine, and the like available in
commissaries, many of these supplements have no certification to guarantee that they contain what their
packages claim. The supplement industry is notoriously unregulated.16 Consumers rely on USP
certification, but DOC Health Services has no authority to ensure that supplement products offered on the
commissary have been appropriately certified. Given that, for example, as many as 40% of fish oil
supplements are rancid17, there is a high likelihood that incarcerated people are being forced to purchase
products that will harm their health in their efforts to compensate for their lack of access to healthy foods.
It is therefore crucial that nutrients be derived from the food sold to incarcerated people, and not from
supplements.

16

See “The problems with the unregulated dietary supplements industry”. American Council on Science and Health.
June 26, 2014.
17
See Supplements and Safety. PBS Frontline. January 19, 2016.

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DOH Healthy Nutrition Guidelines Recommended Foods and Beverages
Beverages

Recommended

Not Recommended

Coffee

Served with non-fat (skim) or low-fat (1%) milk

Served with half and half

Juice drinks

100% fruit or vegetable juice

Fruit or vegetable drinks (including full-sodium tomato
juice) and “ades”

Milk

Non-fat or low-fat (1%) milk, enriched low-fat soy

Reduced-fat (2%) or whole milk

Soft drinks

Diet soft drinks or reduced calorie sports drinks

Full calorie soda, sports drinks

Tea

Unsweetened iced tea with lemon slices or hot tea

Sweetened iced tea

Water

Provide as an option at every meal

Flavored waters with more than 5g of sugar per serving

Foods

Recommended

Not Recommended

Bagel

2 ½” – 3 ½” size or cut in half; whole wheat, whole grain,
rye or pumpernickel

Greater than 3 ½”; “salt” bagels

Baked
goods

Small slices of quick bread (pumpkin, oatmeal, banana);
lower fat, lower sugar granola bars or small muffins;
whole grain pancakes less than 4” made from scratch; no
trans-fats or partially hydrogenated oils

Doughnuts, sweet rolls, pastries, large muffins

Bread

Whole wheat, good source of fiber, whole grain, rye or
pumpernickel; 200mg or less of sodium per slice

White, “wheat”

Cereal

Whole grain, good source of fiber, lightly sweetened or
unsweetened cereal (low-fat granola, oatmeal), non-instant
oatmeal; less than 200mg sodium per serving

Highly sweetened, low fiber, instant oatmeal

Cheese

Low- or reduced-fat cheeses (part skim mozzarella, skim
ricotta, reduced calorie Cheddar); low-sodium cheeses
(American, Colby, Cheddar, Swiss, other products
labeled “low-sodium”)

Large slices or cubes, processed cheese unless labeled
“low-sodium,” higher sodium cheeses such as bleu,
Roquefort, Edam, feta, Gorgonzola, Romano, Parmesan,
Provolone

Chips

Baked chips, pretzels, whole grain chips

Full-fat chips

Condiments

Ketchup, mustard or low-fat mayonnaise, low-sodium soy
sauce in 1 tsp portions, lemon juice, vinegar, homemade
salsa, guacamole, no or low-sodium seasoned salts

Regular soy sauce, tartar sauce, teriyaki sauce, steak sauce,
full-sodium seasoned salts, barbeque sauce

Crackers

Low- or reduced-fat, whole grain, brown rice, whole
wheat; sodium below 150mg per serving

Full-fat, not labeled “whole grain;” sodium above 150mg
per serving

Desserts

Lower fat, lower calorie desserts (fresh fruit, low-fat ice
cream, low-fat frozen yogurt, sherbet, sorbet, yogurt
parfait with fruit and low-fat granola); small slices (2”) lowfat cake (angel food cake with fruit and light whipped
cream)

High-fat, high-calorie desserts (ice cream, cheese cake, pie,
cream puffs, large slices of cake)

Dips

Salsa, low-fat cottage cheese, hummus, reduced- or lowfat salad dressing, dips from low-fat mayonnaise, low-fat
sour cream, reduced-fat cream cheese

Dips made from mayonnaise, full-fat sour cream, cream
cheese, cream sauce

English
muffin

Whole wheat English muffin

White English muffin

Fruit

Fresh, dried, canned in juice, frozen

Sweetened, canned in syrup

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Quarterly Packages
The quarterly package program offers no variety, and no healthy choices whatsoever apart from fish—and
even the fish options are high-sodium, flavored varieties. Indeed, had the items been chosen with the
specific design of fostering unhealthy eating habits, they could hardly be unhealthier than they are: Ding
Dongs, three varieties of Twinkies, ten varieties of candy, ten varieties of cookies, etc. Again, none of the
healthy food items mentioned above are available. The fish sold in the packages are the kinds that are “Not
Recommended” by DOH because they are packed in oil; no fish packed in water with 290 mg or less of
sodium, as recommended by DOH, is sold.

Canteens
Prison canteens are over-the-counter or vending machine-based operations. DOC has a specific policy
governing prison canteens that flagrantly violates the Healthy Nutrition Guidelines, mandating that only
unhealthy food be sold: DOC 200.210, Section VI, subsection B states that “Items sold in the canteen
will be limited to popcorn, soda pop, chips, ice cream bars, and individual candy bars.” Subsection
C states “Canteen operations may sell to offenders, offender friends/family employers, contract staff, and
volunteers,” ensuring that state employees, volunteers, and the public18, as well as incarcerated people, are
completely denied healthy food choices at these canteens.

Vending Machines
Visitors are not allowed to bring food to DOC visiting rooms. Instead, DOC Visiting Rooms have private
contractor vending machines, from which the families of incarcerated people must purchase all food and
beverages. Many travel from across the state to spend the whole day inside the prison with their
incarcerated family member and have to eat lunch and dinner regularly in the visiting room. Despite
repeated requests from individual family members and Family Councils for a healthier product selection,
these vending machines do not comply with the Healthy Nutrition Guidelines for Vending Machines.
Although efforts have been made to improve the food in visiting room since the issuance of the Guidelines,
they remain an area with room for significant improvement.

V.

Further Considerations: Costs and the Environment

This report focuses on the violations of the DOH Healthy Nutritional Guidelines because of the clear
contravention of EO 13-06 involved. However, the industrial food model imposed by CI on incarcerated
people has additional problems. Expense and waste is endemic to the CI Food Services model. It is not only
unhealthy but also costly and environmentally destructive.19 Cooking from scratch with fresh, locally
grown produce, whole grains, and unprocessed lean sources of protein avoids the unnecessary additional
commercial costs of chemical processing, packaging, and shipping. It is also environmentally sustainable,
since it eliminates the need for plastic packaging and the carbon emissions from fuel used to transport food
products to and from distant factories.

Costs
DOC continually justifies the CI takeover of food production as a cost-saving measure. It takes the stance
that a state agency cannot meet budget constraints and still maintain the practice of cooking from scratch
18

Prison staff, volunteer, and visitor food purchases are restricted to items available inside of DOC security
checkpoints.
19
DOC may tout the success of its recycling programs, but there would be far less waste to recycle if excessive CI
plastic packaging were eliminated. Moreover, much of the packaging is of a type that cannot be recycled, such as that
used for the aspartame-sweetened supplement drink powder mix packets.

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at local facilities. However, a 2014 study on the cost of cooking from scratch in ten school districts found
that there is no statistically significant relationship between total agency food costs and the level of local
kitchen scratch cooking.20
It will cost the DOC nothing to offer a good selection of healthy food in its commissaries, quarterly
packages, and canteens, since it is incarcerated people and their families who pay for the food, not the
DOC. The DOC does pay for the meals provided by Food Services, but if the decision to use CI (DOC’s
“revenue branch”) to produce meals has been driven by the hope of increased revenue, it has been a failure.21
The most glaring example is seen in the CI breakfast boats. Instead of buying foods such as eggs, oatmeal
and other whole grains, natural peanut butter, and fruit in bulk and cooking them—using the inexpensive
labor of incarcerated people—Food Services now annually purchases a minimum of 5,840,000 (one
breakfast boat per prisoner per day for a year) individual plastic bowls of commercial Malt-O-Meal cereal,
individual peanut butter packets, and so forth.

Figure 8: Cost of peanut butter and jelly packets for one DOC facility’s April 2015 purchases.
Costs are a moving target in the Department of Corrections, but the Department has reported spending an
average of $2.22 per meal per person in its institutions, of which just $1.32 goes to food, the remainder
being spent on labor ($0.81) and paper, cleaning supplies, etc. ($0.09). By comparison, during the same
period DSHS was spending $5.45 per meal—two and a half times as much. Put another way, DOC spends
25% less per day on food for incarcerated people than DSHS spends on a single meal. Considering that the
applicable Nutritional Guidelines (and the actual nutritional needs) for each population is the same, the
fact that DOC is feeding people in its institutions at 40% of the cost at which DSHS is doing so suggests
that food is not being adequately resourced. Indeed, the food budget could be vastly increased without
significant effect on the overall budget: given that the average daily cost (as of 2011) of incarcerating a
prisoner was $94.84, actual food costs constitute less than about 4% of the bill. Healthcare costs
represented $17.99 of the total cost, or roughly 19% of the bill. Doubling the expenditure on food for
incarcerated people would result in a 4% difference in the overall costs of incarcerating a person in
Washington State. A healthy diet can be achieved with far less expenditure than that. Purchasing more
produce from local Washington farms and small-scale whole food producers will also benefit Washington
State commerce.

20

See Woodward-Lopez et al. "Is scratch-cooking a cost-effective way to prepare healthy school meals with US
Department of Agriculture foods?." Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 114.9 (2014): 1349-1358.
21
Correctional Industries management has had notable public failures in other areas as well. See the 2014 Seattle Times
series covering the track record of CI operations.

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Figure 9: Invoice excerpts for some weekly purchases of cookies, cupcakes, and brownies at two DOC facilities.
Remarkably, while Food Services denies incarcerated people basic nutritional requirements, it
wastes money on dessert treats. Food Services fails to provide the minimum amounts of fruits,
vegetables, whole grains, and protein required by the Healthy Nutrition Guidelines, but it spends taxpayer
dollars on a variety of debilitating packaged sweet dessert items. Yellow cupcakes, chocolate cupcakes,
chocolate-chip cookies, orange crackle cookies, lemon sugar cookies, and oatmeal cookies, as well as
prepackaged sweetened commercial Malt-O-Meal breakfast cereals in individual plastic bowls are instead
offered. Indeed, although Food Services never comes close to meeting Healthy Nutrition Guidelines
requirements to serve a minimum of 6 cups of dark green vegetables in every 4-week period, funds are
found to provide 35 muffins, cookies, and cupcakes in every 28-day menu rotation (Appendix D). In fact,
when DOC spends 20 to 30 cents for each CI cookie, it is spending nearly 13-23% of the total amount allotted
for the meal on a dessert treat that harms those who eat it.
In the short term, healthy food does cost more than unhealthy food, but the difference is less significant
than most people assume, and that difference is more than made up by the savings from decreased health
care expenditures. Any additional costs are also offset by mitigating the social cost to society. Tim
Thielman, president of the Association of Correctional Food Service Affiliates, told The Guardian that
“spending a little more money on food can have a huge impact in improving prisoners’ mental and physical
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health and bringing down reoffending rates… A lot of people don’t understand the importance of taking
care of inmates and giving them proper nutrition.”22

Environmental Impact
The most glaring example of waste is the breakfast boat. Each boat consists of a plastic bag that contains a
cardboard box that contains a packet of nonfat dry milk, a plastic bowl containing a tiny serving of cereal,
a plastic packet of peanut butter, two plastic packets of jelly, plastic-wrapped bread, plastic-wrapped
muffin, and a plastic-wrapped breakfast bar. The breakfast boat packaging is thus at odds with the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommendations for reducing food packaging waste and human
health risks from repeated exposure to certain types of plastic packaging.23 The EPA strives to motivate
behavioral change in private and public sector food packaging practices, as food packaging accounts for
almost two-thirds of total American packaging waste by volume. Yet rather than use local facility food
preparation methods that reduce waste, DOC has actively exacerbated detrimental environmental impacts
with its industrial CI food production and packaging model.

Security
Access to quality, healthy food in prisons is an important security issue. In 2000, incarcerated people at
one Washington prison organized a work strike, partially in response to declining quality of food.24
According to Tim Thielman, president of the Association of Correctional Food Service Affiliates, “years of
penny-pinching on food can be wiped out in minutes if a riot erupts over the quality of food.”25 During the
famous 1971 Attica prison riots, incarcerated people listed access to “a healthy diet” and “fresh fruit daily”
as one of their fifteen proposals to prison administrators.26 Washington’s DOC continually cites security
concerns and correctional officer safety as top priorities for their agency. CI’s increasingly processed food
production model is a potential threat to the goals.

VI.

Recommendations

Immediate
1.

The Governor should order that DOC end Correctional Industries control over the prison
food system and give the DOC Health Services Program Manager of Dietary Services final
authority over menus, commissary stock, and quarterly food packages. DOH should assist
the Health Services Program Manager of Dietary Services in ensuring that menus,
commissary, and food packages comply with the Healthy Nutrition Guidelines.
This is the only way to ensure that DOC will achieve compliance with the Healthy Nutrition
Guidelines in its food services, commissaries, and food package programs. Correctional
Industries revenue priorities are at odds with nutritional goals, and have eroded the authority
of DOC’s dietician to plan nutritious menus and food product options for incarcerated people.
This has led to a detrimental system in which nutritional needs of incarcerated people are not
a consideration in menu, commissary, and package program planning. Incarcerated people are
residents in Washington State’s institutions, and it is the State of Washington’s responsibility

22

See “Prison food politics: the economics of an industry feeding 2.2 million”. The Guardian. September 30, 2016.
See Marsh, Kenneth, and Betty Bugusu. "Food packaging—roles, materials, and environmental issues." Journal of
Food Science 72.3 (2007): R39-R55.
24
See “John Holeman: Miracleworker”, Foodservice Director, April 15, 2004
25
See “Prison food politics: the economics of an industry feeding 2.2 million”. The Guardian. September 30, 2016.
26
See “The Fifteen Practical Proposals”. September, 1971.
23

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to care for them appropriately. This is impossible if the DOC’s head dietician and DOH have
insufficient oversight power in menu and food product planning. Ultimately, the DOC Program
Manager of Dietary Services should have authority to give final approval to all foods sold or
served to incarcerated people.
2.

The Governor should order that DOC make immediate changes to the Statewide Menu
necessary to move toward compliance with the Healthy Nutrition Guidelines by increasing
the quantity and variety of fruits and vegetables, increasing the quantity of nonfat milk
provided, and increasing the quantity and quality of lean protein offered.
a. Provide 3 cups of nonfat dry milk at breakfast rather than 1 as currently provided.
The Guidelines state: “Institutions should offer low-fat (1%) or non-fat milk and milk
products daily” and “the DGA 2010 recommendation is that adults consume 3 cups
daily.”
b. Provide 4 pieces of fruit daily (equivalent to two cups) rather than 2 pieces of fruit. Two pieces
of fruit could easily be provided with the breakfast boats to meet this requirement.
The Guidelines state: “A minimum of 2 cups of a variety of fruits daily.” A baseball-sized
piece of fruit comparable to the apples27 and oranges served in DOC institutions is
considered a half-cup serving of fruit. Four such fruits are required to meet the
Guidelines.
c. Provide 2½ cups of a variety of vegetables daily, in particular the critical categories of dark
green, red and orange, and beans and peas, which are underprovided. Spinach and kale, for
example, are wholly absent from the diet at present.
The Guidelines state: “A minimum of 2½ cups of vegetables daily” and “A variety of
vegetables, especially dark-green, red and orange, and beans and peas. See DGA 2010
for details.”
d. Provide the required 5½ oz. of lean protein in accordance with the DGA 2010 recommendations,
using unprocessed meat. Reinstate healthy lean protein meals previously served in DOC
institutions, including items such as chicken salad sandwiches, chicken hindquarters, and
baked salmon.
The Guidelines require approximately 5½ oz. of protein with “a variety of lean proteins
including meat, poultry, eggs, fish, seafood, beans, peas, nuts, seeds, and soy products.”
e. Forbid individually wrapped food products in meals.
This is perhaps the simplest way to eliminate the highly processed food products every
CI meal contains.
f.

Restore local correctional facility kitchens.
Returning to freshly cooked foods at each local facility is crucial to ensuring access to
healthy food for incarcerated people.

27

Note that apples served to incarcerated people are of markedly smaller sizes than apples the public sees in grocery
stores.

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3.

The Governor should order that DOC ensure that its commissaries and food package
programs begin offering foods described as the “Healthiest” in the Healthy Nutrition
Guidelines for Vending Machines
Foods described as “Healthiest” in the Healthy Nutrition Guidelines for Vending Machines are
“mostly whole foods that contain low or no added sugar and sodium”: 100% whole-grain
products with no added sugars or sodium, unroasted and unsalted nuts, dehydrated vegetables
and fruit, low-sodium packaged fish, low-sodium dried meat (jerky). See page V-2 and Table 3
on page V-4 of Healthy Nutrition Guidelines for Vending Machines.

Longer Term (6-12 months)
1.

The Governor should empower DOH to more actively assist DOC in developing and
monitoring the implementation of new menus for institutions that genuinely reflect the
Standard Principles enunciated in the Guidelines, in particular the first three:




Emphasize fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Use less processed foods that do not contain added sugar and sodium.
Use healthy cooking techniques such as baking, roasting, broiling, grilling,
poaching, steaming, and stir frying.

The Healthy Nutrition Guidelines Implementation Guide provides excellent guidance in the
form of suggested recipes, suggested food products, and suggested food preparation
methods. However, DOC and its CI food managers cannot be entrusted with the
development of the menus. Instead, for this unique state agency, DOH should help create
the menus and monitor their implementation to ensure that the Healthy Nutrition
Guidelines are being met. However, executive Order 13-06 only gives DOH the ability to
provide DOC with technical support in implementing the Healthy Nutrition Guidelines. A
follow-up order may be necessary to ensure a stronger DOH role in implementation.
2.

DOH should either amend the next iteration of its Healthy Nutrition Guidelines for Vending
Machines to make it clear those guidelines apply to all DOC commissary and food package
offerings OR add a section of guidelines to the Healthy Nutrition Guidelines for Institutions
that directly addresses food and beverages that are sold through the commissaries and food
package programs
The Guidelines for Vending Machines states, “Ideally, 100% of items in vending machines
should meet the Healthy Nutrition Guidelines for foods and beverages.” It goes on to set a
target of 50% meeting “Healthiest” or “Healthier” standards. DOH should require that at
least 50% of the offerings of commissaries and food packages be the kinds of natural, whole
foods described as “Healthiest” in the Healthy Nutrition Guidelines for Vending Machines
(“mostly whole foods that contain low or no added sugar and sodium”): 100% whole-grain
products with no added sugars or sodium, unroasted and unsalted nuts, dehydrated
vegetables and fruit, low-sodium packaged fish, low-sodium dried meat (jerky). See page V2 and Table 3 on V-4 of the Guidelines.

3.

DOH and DOC should collaborate with non-profit organizations and nutrition graduate
students to develop effective annual nutrition education workshops for incarcerated people.
DOC has expressed some interest in working with organizations that could provide
nutrition education in Washington prisons. Education workshops for incarcerated people
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must reflect awareness of both the Healthy Nutrition Guidelines and the food products that
are actually available to those living in Washington prisons. Past attempts, such as DOC’s
offensively titled “Slender Offender” program28, were insufficient.

Conclusion
For over two and a half years, the DOC has ignored the mandate of Executive Order 13-06 to provide access
to healthy food in its facilities. Despite extensive support and technical assistance from the Department of
Health, which published a comprehensive Implementation Guide with model policy language specifically
for custodial populations, lists of recommended foods and beverages, sample meals, and additional
resources for implementing the guidelines, the DOC has yet to take even the first step required toward
implementing the guidelines, which were ordered to have been fully implemented by December 31, 2016.
At present, DOC seems unlikely even to acknowledge its duty to attempt to implement the guidelines by
the end of the year. Instead, the agency has steadily been reducing access to healthy food in Washington
prisons.
The result: Nearly 20,000 Washingtonians live in state-sponsored food deserts, where they are literally
coerced by the state into eating unhealthy food. Not only are they denied access to healthy food in the
institutional meals they are served, but also in their commissaries and food package programs, which sell
all but exclusively unhealthy food to them. Only strong executive action can ensure access to healthy food
in state facilities. Incarcerated people, their families, and their friends are counting on the governor to
correct the egregious food policies in Washington prisons and enable all Washingtonians to lead the
healthy lifestyle that leads to improved productivity, quality of life, and life expectancy, as well as to reduce
healthcare costs for the state of Washington. Departments of Corrections in a few other states have started
to move away from the processed prison food model. For example, Minnesota’s Commissioner of
Corrections, Tom Roy, has made a conscious effort to reintroduce freshly cooked, nutritious meals in
Minnesota prisons.29 There is no reason that Washington, as one of the most food and health conscious
states in the nation, cannot do the same.

VII.

Frequently Asked Questions

Isn't Correctional Industries a good thing because it trains workers?
CI claims to trains incarcerated workers. The reality is quite different. CI Food Service employees are all
but universally relegated to menial low-skill reheating and packaging tasks for which little or no training
is required. The CI takeover of Food Services has resulted in the elimination of skilled cooking positions
throughout Washington State prisons. Now, CI workers merely reheat processed food. In a world
increasingly shifting to locally grown and freshly prepared food, there are no careers in reheating.
Reheating food certainly does not constitute a viable path to a real career or a living wage.30

28

The June 2010 report "Opportunities for Increasing Access to Healthy Foods in Washington", prepared for the Access
to Healthy Foods Coalition, lists the “Slender Offender” program in its chart of potential helpful programs.
29
See “Prison food politics: the economics of an industry feeding 2.2 million”. The Guardian. September 30, 2016.
30
On May 28, 2015, the Washington State Supreme Court Minority and Justice Commission held a symposium to
address the many ways in which Washington State fails at ensuring employment readiness and other reentry skills
for incarcerated people. CI Food Services will need to drastically change its model if it wishes to tout any supposed
contribution it makes to the reentry goals discussed at the Supreme Court Symposium. See "Reentry: Do We Really
Care About People Succeeding After Prison?”

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If Food Services returned to preparing healthy meals from scratch, there would be significant opportunities
to train incarcerated people in valuable culinary skills that could lead to genuine career opportunities. In
Denmark, for example, renowned restaurateur Claus Meyer of Noma, consistently ranked the best
restaurant in the world, started a foundation called Melting Pot, which teaches incarcerated people how to
cook. In Seattle, Fair Start trains low-income and at-risk populations to cook professionally, and their
activity could easily be modeled in Washington prisons. Cooking fresh food in healthy ways is a laborintensive activity, and the demand for employees with the relevant culinary skills is increasing.
Won't healthy food cost the state more?
Investing in healthy food is an intelligent way for Washington State to save money. As noted above, making
it possible for incarcerated people to purchase healthy food will cost the state nothing. With regard to the
institutional food services, incarcerated people have no choice but to eat what the state provides them, and
the state has an obligation to ensure that they receive healthy food. In the short run, healthy food does cost
a little more—but unhealthy people cost a great deal more, and the savings from lowered health care costs
more than make up for any difference. Food costs are less than about 4% of the cost of incarcerating a
person; health care costs constitute about 19% of the total bill. Moreover, the benefits of health are worth
the cost: if the cost of feeding people a cheap, unhealthy diet and treating their preventable diseases
through health care were the same as the cost of feeding people a more expensive but healthier diet and
avoiding disease altogether, it is clear that the latter is vastly preferable.
Don't incarcerated people prefer to eat junk food?
Like many economically and educationally disadvantaged people, many incarcerated people were not
raised on healthy food, and as a result often have poor eating habits. To support rehabilitation and fiscal
goals, the Department of Corrections has a duty to reform incarcerated people’s palates and help them
learn about nutrition so that they can raise healthy families and reduce prison healthcare cost burdens on
taxpayers. In any event, the taste preferences of incarcerated people are irrelevant: state agencies have no
duty to provide food that some consider tasty, but they do have a duty to provide nutritious food.

About This Report
Prison Voice Washington exists to help redesign and update Washington’s broken prison system by
introducing common sense, humanity, and the latest scientific research into policy discussions. Our goal
is to improve both the safety of our communities and the lives of prisoners by expanding opportunities for
rehabilitation. We also seek to update our laws and policies to reflect what works, based on the last 30 years
of social science research.
Prison Voice bases its nutritional analysis exclusively on the authoritative statements in Dietary Guidelines
for America, 7th ed., as provided for in the Food and Drug Administration Modernization Act, which
upholds the “significant scientific agreement” standard for authorized health claims. By law, this standard
is based on the totality of publicly available scientific evidence, and excludes statements based on
moderate, limited, inconsistent, emerging, or growing evidence. Prison Voice grounds its implementation
analysis on Department of Corrections official reporting, public Correctional Industries records, and
firsthand, corroborated reporting from people living and working inside DOC institutions.
Prison Voice Washington may be contacted at PrisonVoiceWA@gmail.com, or at P.O. Box 463, Mountlake
Terrace, WA, 98043.

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Works Referenced
1. Executive Order 13-06: Improving the Health and Productivity of State Employees and
Access to Healthy Foods in State Facilities
2. Healthy Nutrition Guidelines for Vending Machines, Meetings and Events, Cafeterias, and
Institutions
3. Healthy Nutrition Guidelines Implementation Guide for Agencies, Sites and Vendors
4. Healthy Nutrition Guidelines Implementation Guide for Institutions
5. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010
6. (Report) Executive Order 13-06: Implementation of Food and Beverage Service Policies in
State Agencies, March 2016
7. DOC Guidelines for Mainline Meals (DOC Policy 240.100 Attachment 1) Revised 4/15

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Appendices
Appendix A
Commissary Order Form
Appendix B
Quarterly Package Order Form
Appendix C
Holiday Package Order Form
Appendix D
Correctional Industries Statewide Mainline Menus

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APPENDIX A – COMMISSARY ORDER FORM

APPENDIX B – QUARTERLY PACKAGE ORDER FORM

APPENDIX C – HOLIDAY PACKAGE ORDER FORM

APPENDIX D – CORRECTIONAL INDUSTRIES STATEWIDE MAINLINE MENU

APPENDIX E – YALE’S ONQI FOOD SCORE RATINGS

 

 

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