When I was in prison, they gave us a loaf of bread to eat twice a day. The loaf was our main source of sustenance, and we hated it. But even though it was hated by pretty much everyone, inmates would still fight over the last remaining slices because they were so hungry. Here’s why:
Immediately upon entering prison, your life is dictated by clockwork.
Once you’re in, time is your master. Your life will begin to become ruled by the routine of prison life. You are woken up at a specific time, you eat a breakfast at an exact hour and you use the phone at pre-designated times.
It doesn’t take long for prisoners to lose their ability to make decisions about when they want to do things and instead learn how to do everything at the same time as everyone else on their unit (unit being another word for “floor”).
Meals are an integral part of that strict schedule and routine.
Meals are an integral part of that strict schedule and routine. Inmates are served meals at the same time every day, in the same area, by the same person, on a specific type of plate. Meals are also part of a person’s daily routine as they wake up at 6:30 am, shower and dress themselves before heading down to breakfast at 8:00 am where they eat breakfast on their assigned tables with their assigned seats while being supervised by correctional officers who watch over each table looking for any signs of disorder.
One in particular is hated by many prisoners: the loaf.
The loaf is a prison staple and something you have to get used to if you’re going to live behind bars. It’s a mixture of bread and other ingredients, but it definitely isn’t made from just bread. Sometimes the loaf contains rice, beans, or even potatoes!
The loaf can be made by inmates using any number of methods: cooking the ingredients in a pot over an open fire; mixing them together in a large bowl with their hands; or placing everything into a blender until they achieve the desired consistency. While some prisons allow inmates access to cooking utensils such as spoons and spatulas (and sometimes even mixers), others do not allow these items due to security concerns. Even when allowed at first glance, there are still ways around those restrictions—for example:
An inmate may trick another inmate into thinking he’s actually holding onto his spoon before switching it out with one containing hot water (which helps dissolve all traces of food). Then he’ll ask for another one because “his was hot.” This way he can cook without anyone knowing about it!
The loaf is awkward to eat.
The loaf is a small, hard piece of bread. It is a large, hard piece of bread. It is not just any large, hard piece of bread: it is the largest, hardest piece of bread you will ever eat in your life and it will be even more difficult to get down than the last one.
The loaf is awkward to eat because it’s so big and heavy that it makes your jaw ache after two bites; because you have to hold on tight with both hands while trying not to drop any crumbs onto your fellow inmates’ laps; because there are so many guards watching closely as they wait for one inmate out there (and in here!) who didn’t get up early enough this morning and therefore hasn’t had time before dinner tonight—at which point he’ll probably take his seat at table sporting some kind of rash/scratchy throat/headache/diarrhea—to slip up by dropping some crumbs on one another’s laps!
The loaf itself has been known for centuries as the most hated food item among prisoners around the world regardless whether they suffer from any chronic health problems or not—and if we hadn’t been able to come up with something better fifteen years ago when they first started passing out these things instead our cell mates would probably still be eating them today too!
The loaf can be used as a weapon, making it disallowed in some prisons.
The loaf is a staple food for many prisoners, but it’s also a weapon. It can be used to attack guards and other inmates. Because of this, the loaf is not allowed in some prisons. Other prisons allow loaves as long as they are eaten in the dining hall and not smuggled into cells or areas where they might be used as weapons.
The loaf has been banned by many prison authorities because of its potential for use as a weapon or other contraband—or simply for being grossed out by it—but even though it’s disallowed in many places, it remains the most common meal served in prisons around the world.
The loaf is unhealthy.
The loaf is far from a nutritious meal. It’s high in calories, fat, sodium and sugar — all of which contribute to an unhealthy lifestyle. The loaf has even been accused of contributing to the high rate of obesity at many prisons in the US.
The state of Illinois has implemented several measures to reduce this issue, including stressing exercise as a means for healthy living and providing inmates with more nutritional meals such as whole grain breads with peanut butter spread rather than jelly spreads — which have less sugar — or whole wheat pasta instead of white pasta that increases cholesterol levels.
The loaf may be a place for contraband to hide.
The loaf may be a place for contraband to hide. While it is not common, there have been cases of things like drugs and weapons being smuggled into prison in loaves of bread. A quick search on Google will reveal a few stories of inmates who have found drugs inside their loaves. There was even one story about an inmate who found an entire cell phone hidden inside his slice of bread.
The loaf is gross, but it’s still better than having nothing at all to eat.
The loaf is a mainstay of prison food. It’s a meal in itself, but only the best prisons will offer it twice a day. Every other state institution will have you eating that loaf every day and twice on Sundays—or even more frequently if you’re lucky enough to be able to afford extras like coffee or candy bars.
The loaf is one of the few foods that prisoners can afford, as most are on some form of public assistance or disability benefits; their incomes are so low that they qualify for free meals at the chow hall. Even then, there’s still little money left over from their monthly stipend for extras like ramen noodles or protein powder (more on those later).
The Loaf: Prison’s Most Hated Food
Loaves are a staple of prison life, and despite their shortcomings, they’re still better than having nothing at all to eat. The loaf is one of the most hated foods in prison, but it has its place in prison culture and history. And for some inmates—including me—it’s part of what we miss most about being incarcerated.