Prison Food


Almost every aspect of a prison has evolved over the past 100 years including the food that is served to the inmates. When Eastern State Penitentiary first opened, the food given to the inmates was controversial, not because of how bad it was, but because it was very high quality. Today, correctional department’s in multiple states are being taken to court by prisoners over “nutraloaf,”a meal that is served to inmates as a punishment. Watch as we tour Eastern State’s cafeteria and bakery ruins to learn how food was prepared and served during the prison’s 142 year operational history and to see what visitors think of the food being served today.


Chi Chi is a comfort food made by inmates using ingredients from the prison commissary or vending machines. Chi Chi recipes vary, but commonly include ramen noodles, chips or cheese curls, meat snacks, and sugar.

Nutraloaf: Pennsylvania Recipe

In Pennsylvania, Nutraloaf is called ” behavior modified meal.” It may be served to an inmate for a maximum of 21 consecutive meals.

1 oz gelatin, any flavor
2 oz whole wheat bread crumbs, dry
1 oz powdered milk, vitamin D fortified
3 oz ground beef, raw
4 oz vegetables, finely chopped and cooked
2 oz American cheese, grated
2.5 oz dry beans, cooked and ground
2 oz onions, finely chopped
1/2 oz margarine (melted) or vegetable oil

Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly with mixer or by hand
Place mixture into greased loaf pan.
Set loaves on lined sheet pans (greased parchment paper).
Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit, approximately one hour. Loaf should be firm to the touch.

Yield: 1 loaf (1 serving)

[source: Pennsylvania Department of Corrections]

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