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Massachusetts Prisoners Receive Expired Food Rejected by Schools

According to an April 2011 news report, the Massachusetts Department of Education set aside 11,000 cases of expired cheese, blueberries, frozen chicken and other food items for use in prison kitchens after an investigation discovered the out-of-date food was being served to Boston school children.

The action comes as no surprise to many prisoners, who are openly served canned desserts, packaged snacks and other food items that are as much as two or three years past the “best-by” date stamped on the packaging. In some prison warehouses it is not uncommon to come across cases of food destined for prisoner meals that are marked “Not to be used for human consumption.”

Documents obtained by the Boston Globe revealed that the old food discarded by the Dept. of Education went to a state prison in Bridgewater, but a spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Correction (DOC) said most of the food had been thrown out, including 2,000 cases of cheddar cheese.

According to Diane Wiffin, director of public affairs for the DOC, prisons rejected the out-of-date food and refused to pick up many of the items, which included cases of frozen chicken and frozen beef patties. The blueberries were served to prisoners, though.

The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department said it often serves expired food from the school lunch program in its 1,600-bed county jail. “It’s been a good way to serve good food very frugally in terms of the budget.... It’s not rancid food. It’s not spoiled food,” explained jail spokesman Richard McCarthy.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) maintains that properly stored or frozen food can remain safe after its expiration or “best-if-used-by” date, but that it loses nutritional value and taste. According to Wiffin, “If the food passes inspection, we incorporate it into our menu ... [which] saves taxpayer dollars....We do not serve inmates food past its prime.”

Leslie Walker, executive director of Prisoners’ Legal Services, chafed at the idea of serving out-of-date food to prisoners. “I think it’s disgusting. My clients are all too aware that they are on the bottom of the pecking order, but to get food that is unfit for school children to [eat] should make it unfit for any human being to consume.” Walker also noted that since expired food is often lacking in nutritional value, prisoners’ health is at risk because they usually lack the resources or ability to supplement their diets.

Source: The Boston Globe

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