Publication Details

This paper was originally published as Williams PG, Eating inside: food service experiences in three Australian prisons, Proceedings of ICCAS08 - 6th International Conference of Culinary Arts and Sciences, 23-27 June 2008, Stavanger, Norway, 75-85. Original conference information available here


This study evaluated the menus and food service experience of inmates in three correctional centres in Sydney (one minimum security, one high security, and one for women). Menus were evaluated against recommended dietary intakes, dietary guidelines and nutrition policy statements. Menus generally provided a well varied selection of foods which met the majority of individual nutritional requirements and dietary guidelines - assuming all food provided was consumed. Focus groups and interviews with 35 inmates explored their attitudes about and experiences of the foodservice provision. Sixteen key themes of concern were identified, including: • Complaints about food quality, lack of choice, and insufficient milk. • High self-reported levels waste of the hot evening meal. • Delivery of evening meals as early as 2.30pm and no facilities for inmates to keep meals cold or reheat them in cells. • Considerable use of additional purchased food (especially meat, fish and eggs). • Inmates commonly prepared meals in rice-cookers in their cells, sometimes re-using meal elements (like meat) from the cook-chill meals. Many complaints were related to factors outside the control of the food service management such as meal times, eating environment and lack of personal choice, but food and menu quality issues were also highlighted. Some of the inmate food handling practices may be posing unacceptable food safety risks.