By Christopher Zoukis

While the days of gruel in a tin cup have long gone by for inmates confined in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, no one imprisoned in today’s facilities will accuse their captors of providing a five-star dining experience, either.  Most federal prisoners will agree that a key component of happiness behind bars is ensuring that the food they eat is close to the latter category.  Napoleon once said, “An army marches on its stomach.”  A similar adage applies to prison: a well-fed prisoner is a happy prisoner.

Meals Supplied by the Federal Bureau of Prisons: The Chow Hall

Most general population BOP facilities serve three meals a day in a dedicated cafeteria-type area (the “chow hall” in prison lingo).  Most chow halls offer fixed tables, usually with four to six stools bolted thereto.  Inmates are permitted to choose where to sit, subject to local custom, and, of course, the ever-present peer pressure, which can be strict in nature.  At some prison facilities, particularly high-security ones, where one sits is — literally — a matter of life and death.  Fights over seating can be deadly.

Food is obtained via chow lines, much like at a high school cafeteria.  Inmate servers, under the watchful eye of BOP food service staff, dole out servings of food onto plastic trays as inmates march through the line.  Serving sizes are, at least in theory, strictly controlled, but a wink and a nod to a friend serving food can be helpful just the same.

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