The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette took a close look at whaat the Allegheny County Jail feeds inmates. People in lockdown think about food all the time, and guards are quick to recognize it’s an important factor in maintaining prisoners’ physical and mental health. Inmates hoard salt and pepper packets and flavoring packets from instant soups so they can make hot sauce on the sly. Hot sauce is considered contraband because it can be used as a weapon. Inmates spend as much as $100 a week supplementing free meals with items bought from the commissary. “You don’t think about it, but you’re eating out of a garbage bag. That’s crazy,” said inmate Cory Harrigan, who worked as a short-order cook at his grandfather’s restaurant.
The jail replaced Aramark as a food vendor. A typical Aramark meal: two slices of white bread, a slice of bologna, a blob of mustard, a square of cheese, baked beans, coleslaw, and yellow cake with vanilla icing. One inmate said of the cheese slice: “I don’t think you could melt this with a blast furnace.” Under a new vendor, Canteen, the county pays 80 cents per meal instead of 68 cents. Guidelines require that the jail provide no less than 2,900 calories of nutritional value for adults and no less than 3,200 for juvenile inmates