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 Meal Plans in Federal Prison 

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Michael Santos

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Meal Plans in Federal Prison:

When going into the Federal Bureau of Prisons, it’s important to understand the meal plans. As with everything else in the Bureau of Prisons, policies govern meals. This blog offers more insight into those meal plans.

People going into the federal prison system should anticipate that food selections differ from what people can expect in the broader community. It’s prison food, and some may find it distasteful. People can supplement the food by purchasing from the commissary. While incarcerated, I supplemented my diet by purchasing tuna, chicken, and other products.

Commissaries differ from prison to prison. To get an understanding of commissary items, we encourage people to take the following steps:

  1. Visit the website.
  2. Select the Locations tab and see dropdown
  3. Select an individual prison
  4. Scroll down the page to see the Commissary List
  5. Review the commissary list for the prison

The commissary list may be old, but it will provide an idea of what to expect.

Knowing what the prison will offer through the Main Line and Common Fare food programs is also helpful.

Main Line and Common Fare:

The BOP developed a plan to accommodate the general population, various religious groups, and people with restrictive diets. It has two meal plans: the “main line” and the “Common Fare.”

The main line contains a hot bar. The hot bar may include beans and rice or pasta dishes. Participants in the main line plan may choose a no-flesh/vegetarian option, where inmates self-select vegetarian items from the hot bar.

The Common Fare meals are kosher meals. Common Fare participants may not select items from the hot bar. They may supplement their diets by selecting items from the salad bar or purchasing items from the commissary.

This is a national policy. According to Program Statement 4700.04(2), local prisons may not change to the Common Fare plan. Such changes must occur pursuant to the BOP’s direction, not at individual prisons.

According to the Code of Federal Regulations, 28 CFR section 548.20(a):

“The Bureau provides inmates requesting a religious diet reasonable and equitable opportunity to observe their religious dietary practice within the constraints of budget limitations and the security and orderly running of the institution and the Bureau through a religious diet menu.”

The Bureau of Prisons further codified its responsibility in Program Statement 4700.04. This program statement indicates:

Hot Entree Availability. To the extent practicable, a hot entree shall be available to accommodate inmates’ religious dietary needs, e.g., Kosher and/or Halal products.   Hot entrees shall be offered three times a week and shall be purchased precooked, heated in sealed containers, and served hot. Cooking of any other food items is not permitted in the Common Fare program.

The food is not great, but people can survive on prison food. I survived on prison food for longer than 9,000 days. For that reason, I know that you can survive too. And you will.

Be strong!

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