Food should become a focal point for prison life rather than simply a function of prison regimes, according to a new report.
Research by the charity Food Matters found numerous opportunities to drive positive change in nutrition and the overall wellbeing of people in prison by giving food a more central role.
Last month the charity launched a new report – Food matters in prisons – informed in part by a roundtable workshop to discuss the issue of food in prisons, involving experts from the voluntary sector, academia, and individuals with lived prison experience.
It said improvements in food standards, sustainability, nutritional education and activities related to understanding, preparing and sharing food are essential for creating healthier, more meaningful prison environments.
Among a series of recommendations for prison food system change, Food Matters said future procurement contracts should provide greater flexibility around procuring local and seasonal produce.
It called too for future prison buildings to be built with food production and preparation in mind, including food sustainability projects, self-catering options and communal dining being offered as standard in newly built prisons and large-scale expansions or refurbishments.
The provision of education and skills should include access to opportunities for people in prison to learn cooking, gardening, and other life skills, as well as work-focused skills, as part of the core curriculum and think creatively about how food related activities can provide purposeful activity.
The report also identified opportunities for greater transparency over food quality, standards and sustainability in light of government plans to strengthen buying standards for public sector food, and called for robust, ongoing monitoring of food standards by prison inspectorates.
Food Matters concluded that food should move from being a functional aspect of prisons to become a focal point for various activities and improvements to prison regimes.