The St. Petersburg Times profiles the lowly honey bun, the vending machine staple that has a special currency behind bars in Florida. Inmates in the Florida prison system buy 270,000 honey buns a month, more than tobacco, envelopes and cans of Coke. Honey buns have taken on lives of their own among the criminal class: as currency for trades, as bribes for favors, as relievers for stress and substitutes for addiction. They've become birthday cakes, hooch wines, last meals even ingredients in a massive tax fraud.
The Times says the honey bun reveals a great deal about life behind bars. Jailhouse cuisine is a closely calculated science. A day's meals inside the mess hall must be hearty enough to meet the 2,750-calorie count, healthy enough to limit fat and sodium, easy enough for prison cooks to prepare and cheap enough to meet the state's average grocery bill about $1.76 per inmate per day. Yet the meals are made to guarantee very little except survival. Honey buns, fried dough in a bag, are a sugary treat. The 6 ounces of a Mrs. Freshley's Grand Honey Bun, the favored pastry of Florida's prisons, serve up 680 calories, 51 grams of sugar and 30 grams of fat. The icing is sticky and frost white, like Elmer's Glue. The taste bears all the subtlety of a freshly licked sugar cube. (This story as originally published in The Crime Report was erroneously attributed by the Orlando Sentinel to the Associated Press.)