Incarceration strips prisoners of many of their rights in society. And making this even more difficult and challenging is that some incarcerated prisoners have very specific dietary requirements.
There are many people, either in free society or incarcerated in prisons, that have special dietary requirements, whether for health issues or for religious reasons. Many prisons, however, require that an inmate prove that a special diet is required by an accepted religion before approving a request for vegetarian, vegan or kosher meals. And each state within the United States has very different protocols and rules for establishing approved dietary requirements.
We get many letters from people whose requests for vegetarian food are refused by prison administration because, they are told, they do not belong to a religion that "requires" vegetarianism. Our efforts have been to support all requests for vegetarian diets, and to also encourage people in prison to see vegetarian practice as part of their spiritual path.
The Prison Vegetarian Project has helped many prisoners throughout the country advocate for and actually receive vegetarian diets. The Prison Vegetarian Project began as a group who worked to bring special dietary requirements to friends in prison. Once hearing that this could be done, other prisoners around the country began asking for help in receiving vegetarian and vegan meals.
Interestingly enough, the American Dietectic Association holds that vegetarian and vegan diets have health benefits and are nutritious. Vegetarian and vegan foods are readily available and often less expensive than traditional non-vegetarian foods. Preparing these foods in a prison system, would actually place less of a financial burden on the correctional institution food system.
There are many resources available for prisoners and their families on vegetarian and vegan options for incarcerated prisoners. Advocates and supporters of these dietary requirements work tirelessly to support the health, ethical, spiritual and environmental beliefs of prisoners.
The Vegan Prisoners Support Group has sent a 12-page recipe booklet to prisons throughout the UK to help promote inventive and cost effective vegan meals.
If you know of someone who is in prison with dietary requirements such as vegetarianism or veganism, please utilize some of the following resources.