Food for Thought: What Will Raniere Be Having for Thanksgiving Meal at MDC?

Nxivm Keith Raniere eating
Keith Raniere likes his sweets

As many families across the country begin the process of preparing their favorite dishes for their Thanksgiving feasts, approximately 2.3 million prisoners in the U.S. are also looking forward to what is usually one of the best meals of the year for them.

One of those is Federal Prisoner #57005-177:  Keith Alan Raniere, the former Vanguard of the NXIVM cult, who will be celebrating his second consecutive Thanksgiving at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn, NY.

The Metropolitan Detention Center

Having spent a couple of my own Thanksgivings at MDC, I have a pretty good sense of what Keith and his fellow 1,600 inmates will be chowing down there on Thursday.

While some federal prisons actually serve more traditional Thanksgiving meals (e.g., turkey, stuffing, cranberries, pies, etc.), MDC usually provides each inmate with an individual Cornish game hen, mashed potatoes, corn, and some sort of “special desert”.

So, while Keith won’t be choosing between a drumstick or all-white meat on Thursday, he will be getting a meal that is substantially better than what he eats every other day.

In addition, he’ll also be getting a day off from his usual work assignment if he, in fact, still has one (Once prisoners at MDC go from “pre-trial” status to “pre-sentence” status, they are less likely to be given work assignments that require them to leave their assigned unit).

So, all in all, Thursday will be a relatively good day for Keith.

Sure, he won’t have even a second outside to enjoy the crisp air of autumn but he’ll be able to sleep in – and have what will likely be one of the two or three best meals he’s had in the past year (Traditionally, Christmas and July 4th are also “good meal days” at MDC).

By next Thanksgiving, Keith will most likely be at a maximum-security prison somewhere in the Northeast (I’m guessing Allentown unless he ends up going to Fort Devens for a while to have his injured wrist operated on).


Prison Menus Are Generally Unhealthy & Non-Nutritious

Every prison and jail in the U.S. is required to serve enough food to ensure that its prisoners are able to receive the recommended minimum caloric intake per day.

For most male prisoners, that’s somewhere in the 2,600-2,800 range.

A typical MDC lunch. 

The fact that some of the food that’s offered may be past its “use-by-date” or otherwise inedible is not taken into account in the counting of calories.

That barely unfrozen chocolate-covered donut that constitutes breakfast on most Saturdays still counts for 300 calories whether you eat it or not.

And that “Mystery Meat” concoction that’s served at least one night per week counts as another 600 calories whether you choose to even go to dinner that night or not.

Mystery Meat Meal

While I was there, it was not unusual for MDC to serve food that had arrived in boxes marked “Not For Human Consumption” (We had guys who worked in the kitchen who would tip us off whenever that happened – and we simply avoided those meals altogether).

Foods that were past their “use-by-date” were usually consumed without any questions or even any grumbling.

And the possibility of finding rodent residue in any given meal was just accepted as “normal”.


It’s All About the Cost

Incarcerating people is expensive – especially when you have 2.3 million of them behind bars on any given day.

And cooking three meals per day for hundreds or thousands of guys takes a great deal of planning.

Estimates vary – but it’s safe to assume that the out-of-pocket costs for housing prisoners are at least $80 billion – or about $37,000 per year per prisoner — in the U.S.

So, prison administrators have to be very cost-conscious – especially when they’re dealing with items like food costs rather than more important things like staffing levels and security.

Federal prisons spend about $3.00/day to feed each of their 200,000+ inmates.

Most families in the U.S. spend about three times that amount on food.

So, the fact that many non-nutritious and inedible meals are served in federal prisons is hardly surprising.

Suffice to say that were it not for the fact that many prisoners have learned how to create decent meals from items they can obtain from the prison Commissary, there would be many more riots in prisons and jails throughout the U.S.


Menus in Federal Prison Are Boring & Unhealthy

The Bureau of Prisons establishes a national menu for all its prisons that is based on a 5-week cycle.

Here are the BOP’s weekly menus for 2018.


Although the meals don’t sound all that bad, the actual ingredients that are used make many of them inedible.

For example, “Beef Tacos” certainly sounds like an OK meal.

But when you see the “beef” (if that’s what it actually is) floating in a sea of melted fat – and when the taco shells are either moldy or stale – you immediately go to your locker to see what Commissary food you have on hand.

And those “scrambled eggs” that are served at least twice per week are not exactly what your Mom used to whip up for your breakfast. Instead, they are dry and tasteless – and, once again, force you to forage through your locker for Commissary food.

Likewise, the “Chicken Fajitas” that use boiled chicken that was recycled from the prior day’s lunch. A great idea except for the fact that the chicken is totally tasteless and almost impossible to chew.


Without Commissary Food Many Prisoners Would Skip Meals

While many outsiders might think of Commissary food as “treats”, in reality, many prisoners might starve without it.

Sure, it’s over-priced – and very limited in terms of choices – but it beats the hell out of many regular meal offerings.

The most popular Commissary item at every prison is “macks”.

Macks are tinfoil packets of ground mackerel – which may not sound very appetizing but which are actually fairly nutritious and cheap (They were $1.00 per packet when I was at MDC but they now cost $1.45).

More importantly, macks also serve as currency in terms of buying services or other things from other inmates (Example: Another inmate will wash and fold your clothes for 2-3 macks per week).

Macks are edible for up to 3-years – which means that in prison there are two types of macks: “eating macks” and the past-eat-by-date “money macks”. “Money macks” are generally worth 75% of “eating macks”.


State & County Prisons Are Even Worse

As bad as federal prisons are in terms of food, state and county prisons are even worse.

A recent study found that most states spend less than $2.50/day per prisoner on prison meals.

But the title for “Lowest Cost Prison Meals” goes to the infamous Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

First, he reduced the number of meals being served from 3 per day to 2 per day.

Next, he eliminated all meat-based dishes from the menu – and replaced them with soy-based dishes.

Then, he started serving peanut-and-butter jelly sandwiches as a regular lunch or dinner meal.

Eventually, he got the cost down to an average of $.56 per meal (Some of the meals he served actually cost as little as $.15).

So, as it turns out, the Vanguard really does have some things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

For one, he’s at MDC and not in Maricopa County.

And two, he’ll have his own little Cornish game hen to devour on Thursday.

Cornish game hen

Viva Executive Success!

About the author

J.J. O'Hara


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  • For Thanksgiving nothing beats a turkey stuffed with White Castle Sliders.
    It’s better than anything served at the White House or Buckingham Palace.
    What’s Cooking Cravers? – White Castle Turkey Stuffing Recipe – White Castle

  • Girl Scout Cookies,

    Don’t read it if you don’t like it! Mr. Shadow appeals to a key demographic of Frank Report readership. Why do you think RVSP Cruises for men is such a prominent advertising sponsor?

    • “Why do you think RVSP Cruises for men is such a prominent advertising sponsor?”

      It is RSVP Please Respond in French.
      Not RVSP.

      RSVP is an initialism derived from the French phrase Répondez s’il vous plaît,[1] meaning “Please respond”

      You mixed up the letter order.
      You typed RVSP.
      Were you so mesmerized by the pictures of muscular gay men that you couldn’t type it right?

  • Joe,

    Did you get shaken down at all by the prison protection racket? Run by the different prison gangs or mini-gangs.

    I separated this question from my last comment intentionally. Most people are reluctant to speak about the protection rackets because they are told what will happen if they do.

    I understand perfectly if you do not wish to speak of the protection racket system. I would most likely not speak publicly about it either.

    • On second thought please do not post my question regarding the prison protection rackets!

      I do not want to cause Joe O’Hara any problems.

      • To Anyone following my question & answer with Joe O’Hara.

        Why are former inmates so reluctant to talk about the prison protection rackets publicly?

        God forbid, for whatever reason, the former inmates ever return to jail or prison after speaking about the rackets they would then be completely f*cked.

        • One of the first things that I learned at MDC was not to ask questions about things that didn’t directly concern me. That – and being respectful of every other prisoner – are essential to avoiding unnecessary hassles in prison.

    • I never had any such issues – although I certainly saw numerous instances of it happening. And that’s about all I’ll ever say publicly about that aspect of prison.

      • Joe,

        The prison protection rackets that exist at even minimum security prisons are fairly good at squeezing other inmates for every penny. My friend’s uncle went to prison for embezzlement and tax evasion. The extortionists at the uncle’s prison had the uncle writing letters to his family, extended family, and even friends for money; In addition to having his wife depositing money on other prisoners’ commissary accounts.

        The prison protection rackets are one of those aspects of prison the general public has no clue about; and his hardly ever reported on by the media.

        Thanks for responding!

  • I enjoyed this article thanks!

    How often did you find rodent residue in food?

    I only ask because rodents are notorious for parasitic worms, rare bacterial infections, and hantavirus.

    Meningitis outbreaks viral or bacterial are often caused from mice droppings.

    Mice droppings are second to raccoon droppings interms of pathogens. It’s amazing more inmates do not die from eating mouse droppings.

  • Jail is a lot worse then prisons. If Raniere has any followers left they will be putting money on his books. He will most likely get outside time and the food is better. It all comes down to how he isviewed by the other inmates.

    • I doubt very much that Raniere will be viewed very well by other inmates unless he ends up in a prison that specializes in sexual offenders. Even then, his offenses are very different than most sexual offenders – which likely means he’ll be at or near the bottom of the totem pole in terms of prisoner hierarchy.

      Raniere has also been targeted by one of the toughest prison gangs in the country – which will follow him no matter where he goes. I truly believe that the only way he can survive for any significant length of time is to buy protection – and even then, he could easily become a bargaining chip between that gang and his protectors.

      • You Girl Scout Cookies,

        Don’t read it if you don’t like it! Mr. Shadow appeals to a key demographic of Frank Report readership. Why do you think RVSP Cruises for men is such a prominent advertising sponsor?

        • “Why do you think RVSP Cruises for men is such a prominent advertising sponsor?” Niceguy

          You messed it up, Niceguy.
          It’s RSVP.
          Répondez s’il vous plaît (Please Respond)
          NOT RVSP.

          Why did it mix you up, Niceguy?
          Did all of those handsome hunks turn you on, Niceguy?

          • Shadowstate,

            Hey dummy the ad states RVSP not RSVP. You messed up your sponsors name.

            So Shadowstate what do you look like wearing a banana hammock with no shirt on? Nut-Job wants to know!

          • Girl Scout Cookies,

            I just messing with Shadowstate and the new sponsor he is responsible for bringing to the Frank Report.

          • “Don’t read it if you don’t like it!”,

            I was joking around; meaning if you don’t like Shadowstate ranting don’t read it. 😉

  • Thanks for the details.

    I hate that picture of KAR stuffing cake into his pie hole.

    I’ve said before, part of his punishment should be to be placed on the DOS diet that he dictated women follow. With extra Ramen noodles to avoid starvation.

About the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg, “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson, “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been prominently featured on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and was the lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” In addition, he was credited in the Starz docuseries 'Seduced' for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Parlato appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC, and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest. This was ironic, as many credit Parlato as one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

Parlato is a consulting producer and appears in TNT's The Heiress and the Sex Cult, which premieres on May 22, 2022.

IMDb — Frank Parlato,_Jr.

Contact Frank with tips or for help.
Phone / Text: (305) 783-7083