Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Disciplinary ‘Nutraloaf,’ Cruel and Unusual, or Just Gross?

Sample of Nutraloaf

Sample of Nutraloaf

Ever wonder what the bad inmates eat in prison? Many prisons in the U.S. use a food called Nutraloaf, Nutri-Loaf, prison loaf, disciplinary loaf, confinement loaf, special management meal, or just: The Loaf. It seems that this punishment food is essentially as healthy as it is unpalatable, tasting so bad that some call its use cruel and unusual.

The Loaf essentially seems to be good food for bad people. It meets “the recommended dietary allowances established by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council” as well as “the religious and medical needs of inmates on special religious and medical diets,” according to the Florida Department of Corrections.

According to the ingredients for The Loaf used in a Vermont prison include: 6 slices of finely chopped whole wheat bread, 4 ounces of finely grated non-dairy cheese food, 4 ounces of finely grated raw carrots, 12 ounces of canned spinach, drained well, 4 ounces of seedless raisins, 2 cups of Great Northern beans, cooked and well drained, 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil, 6 ounces of tomato paste, 8 ounces of powdered, instant nonfat/skim milk and 6 ounces of dehydrated potato flakes. This concoction is mixed well, pressed into an oven pan and baked at 325 degrees for 45 minutes. Three loafs provide about 3,000 calories.


Business Insider reports that Doug Gruse of the Post-Star said that prison loaf “smelled like a shoe.”

The Vancouver Columbian City Editor Gregg Herrington said, “I thought it was just awful, and I’m a guy who liked dorm food in college.”

Of the Nutraloaf served in California prisons, a Washington, D.C., mortgage broker told’s Arin Greenwood, “It’s what you imagine Alpo tastes like.” He concluded that he hated it, but that it wasn’t the worst thing he had ever eaten.  Asked what the worst was, then, the broker said, “Cat, but I didn’t know it was cat.”

Prisoner Tommy Lynn Lewis who is only one of many inmates who have sued over having to eat Nutraloaf said, “It’s repulsive … it’s a little punishment block, not meant to eat.”

Food critic Jeff Ruby of declared, “Nutraloaf, a thick orange lump of spite with the density and taste of a dumbbell, could only be the object of Beelzebub’s culinary desires.” He concluded that, “Nutraloaf tastes blank, as though someone physically removed all hints of flavor.”

Aramark district manager Mike Anderson told, “That’s the goal. Not to make it taste bad but to make it taste neutral.”

In fact that seems to be the crux of the matter. Courts have ruled that, though prisons must feed inmates nutritionally sound food, it need not be tasty or pretty. In a 2008 Nutraloaf suit in Vermont, the lawyer for the plaintiffs argued, “Nutraloaf has been found to be uniformly unappetizing to everyone who has been served it.” Unfazed, the judge said, “Counsel, I’ve eaten Nutraloaf. And it isn’t tasty. But many things I’ve eaten aren’t tasty.”

Most importantly, feeding naughty inmates The Loaf seems to curb bad behavior. Warden Thomas Corcoran told Scott Simon on Weekend Edition Saturday that in only two years’ use of The Loaf as punishment inmate assaults on prison staff had fallen by half, concluding, “The proof is in the loaf.”

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