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Block of brown fibrous matter on an orange tray
A vegetable-based nutraloaf with sauce
Alternative namesMeal Loaf, prison loaf, disciplinary loaf, food loaf, lockup loaf, confinement loaf, seg loaf, grue, special management meal, vomit loaf, punishment loaf, The loaf
Place of originUnited States, Canada
Serving temperatureRoom Temperature

Nutraloaf (also known as meal loaf, prison loaf, disciplinary loaf, food loaf, lockup loaf, confinement loaf, seg loaf, grue or special management meal)[1] is food served in prisons in the United States and formerly in Canada[2] to inmates who have misbehaved, for example by assaulting prison guards or fellow prisoners.[3] It is similar to meatloaf in texture, but has a wider variety of ingredients. Prison loaf is usually bland, perhaps even unpleasant, but prison wardens argue that nutraloaf provides enough nutrition to keep prisoners healthy without requiring eating utensils.[4]


There are many recipes that include a range of food, from vegetables, fruit, meat, and bread or other grains. The ingredients are blended and baked into a solid loaf. In one version, it is made from a mixture of ingredients that include ground beef, vegetables, beans, and bread crumbs. Other versions include mechanically separated poultry and "dairy blend".[5]

Legal challenges[edit]

Although nutraloaf can be found in many United States prison facilities, its use is controversial. It was mentioned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1978 in Hutto v. Finney while ruling that conditions in the Arkansas penal system constituted cruel and unusual punishment. Prisoners were fed "grue", described as "a substance created by mashing meat, potatoes, oleo [margarine], syrup, vegetables, eggs, and seasoning into a paste and baking the mixture in a pan". The majority opinion delivered by Justice John Paul Stevens upheld an opinion from the 8th Circuit Court that the grue diet be discontinued.[6]

The standards of the American Correctional Association, which accredits prisons, discourage the use of food as a disciplinary measure, but adherence to the organization's food standards is voluntary.[7][8] Denying inmates food as punishment has been found to be unconstitutional by the courts,[9] but because the loaf is generally nutritionally complete, it is sometimes justified as a "dietary adjustment" rather than a denial of proper meals.[7]

Lawsuits regarding nutraloaf have taken place in Illinois,[10] Maryland, Nebraska, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington, and West Virginia.[3][11] In March 2008, prisoners brought a case before the Vermont Supreme Court, arguing that since Vermont state law does not allow food to be used as punishment, nutraloaf must be removed from the menu.[12] The Vermont Supreme Court held that the nutraloaf and water diet constitutes punishment as it was designed to be unappetizing and as such compelled its removal.[13] In April 2010, sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona won a federal judgment in favor of the constitutionality of nutraloaf.[11][14] In December 2015, New York State decided to discontinue the use of nutraloaf throughout prisons statewide.[15] In Gordon v. Barnett, the District Court for the Western District of Washington ruled that although it was not cruel and unusual, nutraloaf is a punishment and that prisoners are entitled to a due process hearing before being subjected to it.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "33-602.223 : Special Management Meal - Florida Administrative Rules". Florida State Department of Corrections. June 30, 2013. Retrieved February 10, 2018.
  2. ^ "Food in hospitals and prisons is terrible – but it doesn't have to be that way". Globe and Mail. May 10, 2016.
  3. ^ a b Greenwood, Arin (June 24, 2008). "Taste-Testing Nutraloaf: The prison food that just might be unconstitutionally bad". Slate.
  4. ^ "Food for Thought: Is Nutraloaf Punishment?". WCAX-TV News. Archived from the original on June 30, 2008. Retrieved March 26, 2008.
  6. ^ Hutto v. Finney, 437 U.S. 678, 10 (U.S. 1978) ("A filthy, overcrowded cell and a diet of 'grue' might be tolerable for a few days and intolerably cruel for weeks or months.").
  7. ^ a b Purdy, Matthew (August 4, 2002). "What's Worse Than Solitary Confinement? Just Taste This". The New York Times. Retrieved March 24, 2008.
  8. ^ Gay, Malcolm (March 19, 2008). "Cruel and unusual punishment: Malcolm sentences himself to Prison Loaf". Riverfront Times. Archived from the original on March 25, 2008. Retrieved March 24, 2008.
  9. ^ "Prisoner Diet Legal Issues" (PDF). AELE (Americans for Effective Law Enforcement) Law Journal. July 2007.
  10. ^ Arnett v. Snyder, 331 Ill. App. 3d 518 (2001)
  11. ^ a b c Greenwood, Arin (July 2010). "It's What's for Dinner". ABA Journal. Retrieved August 21, 2018.
  12. ^ "Vermont inmates call food foul, sue over it". NBC News. Retrieved March 26, 2008.
  13. ^ "Vermont Supreme Court: 'Nutraloaf' Diet Is Punishment That Requires Hearing". Prison Legal News. Retrieved August 15, 2009.
  14. ^ "Arpaio Wins Summary Judgment in Federal Court" (PDF) (Press release). MCSO. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 12, 2010. Retrieved April 13, 2010.
  15. ^ McKinley, Jesse (December 17, 2015). "New York Prisons Take an Unsavory Punishment Off the Table". The New York Times.

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