It’s brown, rectangular and continues to be served to prisoners in Florida correctional facilities.
Nutraloaf — also known as a special management meal, prison loaf or disciplinary loaf — is served to prisoners in solitary confinement if they create security problems.
Buzzfeed is one of several news outlets to host taste tests for the food, showing participants spitting out the food and refusing to eat it, posing the question of whether it should be fed to inmates.
The food has been banned in Massachusetts, Minnesota and, as of December 2015, New York. But the Florida Department of Corrections stands by its use.
“The department’s policy is that food is not used for disciplinary reasons, but in this one particular instance for confinement inmates, there are instances where we would recommend that a special management meal is utilized,” said Shane Phillips, who oversees the statewide food operations for the Florida DOC. “If [an inmate] is endangering the safety of our staff, we take that very seriously.”
Alex Friedmann, associate director and managing editor of Prison Legal News, said many institutions do not use Nutraloaf and that those facilities find other ways to control their inmate population.
Prison Legal News, a project of the Human Rights Defense Center, publishes a monthly magazine about prisoners’ rights and advocates for changes in the prison system.
“When you create a food item that is so unpalatable that prisoners just can’t eat it … then, in effect, you are denying people food,” said Friedmann, who served 10 years in correctional facilities.
The standard recipe for Florida’s special management meal includes carrots, spinach, dried beans, vegetable oil, tomato paste, water, dry grits and dry oatmeal, according to the DOC. It’s created by kneading the ingredients together, splitting the mound into three loaves — no more than 1 to 1.5 inches thick — and baking for 30 to 40 minutes at 325 degrees.
Florida law says that inmates can be placed in solitary confinement and given special management meals for the following infractions: throwing or misusing food, beverages, food utensils, food trays or human waste products; spitting at staff; destroying food trays or utensils; or any other acts that would place staff in jeopardy with a serving tray or utensils.
An inmate can be placed on special management meals for a maximum of seven days before being returned to regular meals for a minimum of one day.
“I think it is improper to use food as a form of punishment,” Friedmann said. “Food is one of life’s necessities.”
Friedmann said there are other ways to discipline inmates, such as shortening visitation hours or taking away phone privileges.
“The bottom line is it is a form of punishment,” he said. “They don’t serve the loaf to the general population or the officers.”
The general prison population’s meals are based on a four-week master menu cycle, according to the Florida DOC. A typical breakfast can include oatmeal, coffee cake, fresh fruit, coffee, sugar, margarine and a breakfast beverage, such as juice.
“All it would take is for Secretary [Julie] Jones [of the Florida Department of Corrections] to say, ‘Nope, we don’t need to do this anymore,’ and they wouldn’t do it,” Friedmann said.
It’s an internal policy that can be changed, he said.
“A lot of people tend to forget prisoners are people and humans, too,” Friedmann said. “Prisoners’ rights are human rights.”
Florida DOC spokesman McKinley Lewis said he disagrees with the idea that special management meals are a form of punishment.
“I wouldn’t classify [the food] as a punishment,” Lewis said. “It is much more geared toward staff safety.”