Prison Food From Around The World That Will Either Make You Hungry — Or Wanna Barf
Prison is not meant to be an enjoyable experience. You’re in there for committing a crime, after all. So it would be foolish for us to expect that prison meals are anything more than sub-par — in America, anyway. However, the standards for prison food vary from country to country. Elsewhere in the world, some prison food isn’t all that bad. In fact, some penitentiaries serve meals that we wouldn’t bat an eye at if placed in front of us at a restaurant. Other institutions serve straight up garbage — literally. We’ve compiled a list of interesting, standard, and downright disgusting prison foods served around the world, and depending on where you are, the meals might just scare you into everlasting good behavior.
The below meals are just samples of prison food a country has to offer.
Depending on the penitentiary and the local government, some menus may be better or worse than those in a neighboring prison. What inmates eat has been a point of controversy for many governments around the world, and fingers have been pointed at officials who allow health and safety standards of prison cafeterias to slip on their watch.
Would you eat any of the below prison food?
Hopefully, if all goes according to plan, you’ll never have to.
1. Mexico City, Mexico
The Reclusorio Preventivo Norte (The Men’s Preventive Prison) in Mexico City allows prisoners to receive food from and share a meal with loved ones on Saturdays, Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. Families usually bring chicken stew, rice, sauces, cereal, and eggs.
During the other days of the week, however, prisoners eat “onion soup” (a watered down broth with chunks of onion), some sort of meat, and soybeans.
2. Hokkaido, Japan
One prison in Hokkaido, Japan has a diner onsite where the public can eat as the prisoners do. The Bangaichi Shokudo Diner and its corresponding prison serve a dish comprised of grilled saury fish, barley rice, miso soup, and two salads.
Diners and prisoners can also choose a dish with Atka mackerel, boiled greens with fried tofu, potato with bonito fish flakes, rice, and miso soup.
3. Birmingham, England
At HM Prison Birmingham, prisoners are given tea and cereal or porridge oats for breakfast, a sandwich with either soup or salad for lunch, and dinner can vary from chicken supremes and curries to halal casseroles and pork pie salad.
This caused quite the uproar in 2016 — pork pie with salad is a big British no-no.
Prisoners typically get to choose their meals for the week ahead of time.
4. Horten, Norway
Bastøy Prison, located on a Norwegian island, aims to rehabilitate prisoners rather than punish them. To help them be more productive members of society, Bastøy is set up like a mini village where prisoners wear plainclothes and shop at local grocery stores on an $85 allowance.
They then cook for themselves as they would back at home.
5. South Korea
Prisoners in South Korea are often served Kongbap — a bland instant dish consisting of rice and beans. At breakfast, prisoners are given bread with tomato sauce and cheese, soup, salad, and soy milk.
And at lunch, they usually get a bone marrow and veggie soup, kimchi, and beansprouts.
6. Pennsylvania, USA
The Lancaster County Prison serves a lunch of mixed vegetables (carrots and green beans), salad, corn dogs, potatoes, and a yellow cake for dessert.
Some inmates can “customize” their lunches by requesting whether or not they want a specific food item served that day.
7. Southern China
Stuart Foster, an American sociology professor from South Carolina, served more than seven months at a Chinese labor camp where he assembled Christmas lights to ship to America.
If he didn’t work, he didn’t get food.
“Each meal we were fed rice, turnips and a little pork fat, which tasted horrible but was enough to sustain life,” Foster wrote in a 2014 article for Prison Legal News.
“A cut in food rations was devastating and I saw a few prisoners start to look skeletal.”
8. Bangkok, Thailand
After insulting the Thai monarchy, Australian writer Harry Nicolaides spent six months in a Bangkok prison.
“By seven o’clock a bell would ring and prisoners would line up outside the mess hall, where plates of steamed rice husks had been sitting on the benches for half an hour,” Nicolaides wrote in a 2009 The Monthly article.
He added that he refused to eat the “murky soups” having seen cats vomit after trying it. Wealthy prisoners would bribe the prison commodore for luxury foods like croissants, honey, butter, and cheese.
In 2012, Andrei Barabanov was sentenced to four years in a Russian prison after being arrested at an anti-Putin rally. After his release, Barabanov created an Instagram page where he shared recipes he and his fellow inmates came up with using the supplies they were given while incarcerated.
Each prisoner was served a “grey mass” of porridge.
However, Barabanov usually bought his own food from the prison canteen.
He used to make homemade Nutella using ground up digestive biscuits and cocoa powder.
10. Roumieh, Lebanon
Lebanese prisoners at Roumieh prison, one of the largest prisons in the Middle East, share a plate of hummus and rounds of naan bread at lunchtime. As of 2017, Roumieh is at 300% capacity and holds about half of all the prisoners in Lebanon.
11. Iserlohn, Germany
An image of a prisoner from Iserlohn, Germany shows him carrying a lunch tray that seemingly houses three bread dumplings with a side of gravy.
He also received a hearty serving of steamed Brussel sprouts.
12. London, England
At the female-only HM Prison Holloway, inmates can expect “a carton of UHT milk, tea bags, sugar, coffee whitener and cornflakes,” as Refinery29 reported in 2016.
Pasta or soup, chips, and a sandwich made up lunch on most days.
And Sunday dinner is a roast with rock-solid potatoes. Sometimes dishtowels were served as well after kitchen staff wiped something up and simply threw it back into the pot.