Briana Heaney Published

Report Critical of W.Va.’s Prison Food System

A line of jail cells.Lettas/Adobe Stock

A report published by the West Virginia Center on Budget Policy said inmates receive highly processed, low nutrient foods that negatively impact their health and cost taxpayers more. 

The report indicates inmates used to grow fresh produce outside and in greenhouses to cook healthy fresh meals under a state run prison food service program. However, as prison populations grew, the state looked to save money by signing a contract with Aramark food service. 

Aramark is a national food service provider. The company received fines due to maggot infested food and food that had been tainted by rats. The food provider has also been cited for serving expired or unrefrigerated food products, the report said. 

The authors of the report filed a Freedom of information act to find out how much the state pays Aramark, and to answer questions about conflict of interest. So far, they have not been able to receive any information. 

In 2019 West Virginia lawmakers passed The Fresh Food Act that required 5 percent of the purchases made by Aramark to be fresh produce or meat from West Virginia producers. However, the Agriculture Commissioner complained in 2022 that the company has failed to comply with the law, and that the Department of Agriculture has no tools to enforce the law. 

The West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitations issued a statement that said the organization is committed to the safety, quality of life, and wellbeing of those in the care of the legal system in the state and continually work to provide nutritional meals and quality of health care to those placed in their care.