By Richard Luthmann
There have been several comments asking about prison food. I promised to put together a more comprehensive treatment for the readership.
One reader asked:
Supersize me – Director Morgan Spurlock’s social experiment in fast-food gastronomy sees him attempting to subsist uniquely on food from the McDonald’s menu for an entire month.
In the process, his weight balloons, his energy level plummets, and he experiences all sorts of unexpected — and terrifying — side effects.
He also examines the corporate giant’s growing role in the lives of American consumers and explores its methods of indoctrinating young people and its contribution to America’s obesity epidemic.
Has an experiment like this been done where only the consumption of prison food is concerned? It seems warranted.
Another reader asked:
One thing I want to know about is the food. I’m kind of a foodie, so how bad is the food?
Like, I mean, it’s not the Ritz. But is the food really that bad, or do prisoners like to grumble?
I can tell you that good food is scarce in the BOP, particularly if you have specialized dietary needs. I was 260 pounds on the day of my arrest on December 15, 2017.
After the stress of the indictment and three months of captivity, I ballooned up to 300 pounds. I was pre-diabetic with an A1C of 5.3. Within three months, I was a full-blown diabetic with an A1C of over 7.
Poor nutrition, and stress drives inmate health problems
Food choices were the major drivers of my drastic medical decline, and these factors are faced by all prisoners in detention and prison.
To better evaluate the effects of food choices on prisoners, I sought the advice of nutrition expert. Benedict “BK” Kelly, the principal of the Fairfield, Connecticut-based BKAthletics and the developer of FitOver40Formula.
Ben Kelly has spent 30 years in the health, nutrition, and fitness industry. Originally a professional rugby league player from Sydney, Australia, Kelly transitioned from coaching and strength conditioning to concierge fitness and wellness.
Ben Kelly, of BK Athletics in Fairfield, Connecticut, is a nutrition, fitness, and wellness professional.
Kelly is in the business of nutrition. “Nutrition is such an important day-to-day factor in helping clients live their life to their best potential through holistic health practices and understanding what works and what doesn’t,” Kelly said.
In developing the FitOver40Formula from three decades of expertise, Kelly customizes a lifestyle transformation from nutrition to lifestyle, to fitness – “the whole nine yards,” BK says as he explains how he has helped clients change their lives in their middle age.
Ben Kelly is from Australia, where he was a professional rugby player and strength coach. He played for the U.S. National Team.
Part of what Kelly does is menu preparation.
The Bureau of Prisons touts a “National Menu” served to the inmates at its 122 prison institutions. If you are a prisoner in federal custody, no matter what facility you are at, everyone gets the same meal.
Prisoners’ actual food choice is listed on the National Menu, and is supplemented by what inmates can buy at the prison commissary or “canteen.” Inmates get the privilege of shopping once a week or two, and can stock up on additional food items to keep in their cells.
None of the Bureau of Prisons’ commissary food is fresh. All of it is sugary, salty, and/or nitrate-loaded prepackaged rubbish.
First, I asked Kelly about the National Menu, and if he saw anything remotely solid nutritionally.
Kelly said, “The lead protein portion of the daily looks decent, on some of them. There was one with a chicken patty. There was a different one with beef. As the prime driver for meals, protein is fantastic.. There was a level of fine additives put in there. Margarine, gravy, mashed potatoes, and corn kernels. It doesn’t look like a lot of quality there whatsoever.”
Inmate meals served at prisons are low quality, cooked in seed oils, and high in sugars, starches, and nitrates.
Kelly said there was concern that prisoners who wanted to make healthy and nutritious food choices could get enough calories from the BOP’s National Menu. But the larger, hidden health killer is what the prison food is cooked in.
“Let’s take Sunday, for example scrambled eggs and breakfast potatoes. The question is, what have they been cooking in? If it is 100% margarine, canola, or sunflower seed oil, that’s just toxic to the body,” Kelly said. He also said getting enough to eat could be a problem: “Calorie-wise, just having the protein portion is not feasible. And toxic shortening-free chicken patties? I don’t think so.”
Health and Nutrition Expert Ben Kelly says seed oils are toxic to the human body. The BOP uses seed oils as a shortening to cook prisoner food.
I asked BK what would be the healthier choices as opposed to the seed oils and the margarine. He said, “whole fats like butter, olive oil, and avocado oil. Fats that are saturated fats are actually good. The problem is that the polyunsaturated fatty acids and industrial seed oil are nutritionally unsuitable and oxidize poorly. Chemical exposure to these harmful substances is going to make you sick. And if you are eating them daily, it’s just a recipe for disaster.”
As an expert in nutrition for people over 40, I asked Ben Kelly from a nutritional perspective what the effect of the Bureau of Prisons National Menu would be over time for inmates over 40, or for people of any age, that would eat these foods, especially the seed oils, the high carbohydrate, high sugar, high salt, high nitrate diet, what are the effects over time. The answers were not good.
An example of a “Six Starch” meal cooked in seed oil that would be served to BOP inmates
Kelly said, “Cancer toxicity, obesity, general malaise of not feeling good or vibrant. And there is a domino effect when you are not eating well and not feeling good,” Kelly said. If you’re eating toxic foods, especially as we age, that combined with not exercising creates a compounding effect that is the driver of heart attacks, diabetes, hypertension, and other serious problems, especially as we age,” the expert nutritionist said.
Ben Kelly and I also went over examples of a prison commissary list that inmates use to shop at the compound’s canteen. We looked at the lists from FMC-Devens in Massachusetts (where I was housed for a time former Congressman Anthony Weiner) and USP-Tuscon in Arizona (where Keith Raniere is now a resident).
Ben Kelly gave his opinion as a nutritionist. “Ultimately, when I’m looking at a food list, I’m looking at protein and how much is available. But there are only a handful of choices of proteins that I see available,” the former rugby league pro said. He continued, “Chicken breast, turkey breast, egg, salmon, mackerel, tuna – there are about ten choices of protein on the whole list. And rest assured, there is lots of junk that I would never touch.”
Ben Kelly’s FitOver40Formula makes solid nutritional choices as a large driver of success.
On the FMC-Devens list (a BOP medical center), Kelly pointed to the vast majority of items as poor nutritional choices. “Marshmallow Fluff, Kraft cheese, salsa, mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup, all those sources would be made with seed oils for sure,” he said. Ben Kelly continued, “cashews, butter popcorn, wheat pretzels, tortilla, Ripples, nachos, enchilada, crackers, cheese saltines – all of them are all processed unhealthy nutrients that I would avoid like the plague.”
Kelly said he would not advise any of his clients to eat anything on these commissary lists besides the protein, “and even that would be a lower grade choice, because it’s not free organic grass-fed highest quality proteins. These invariably may also include proteins packaged with seed oils that are essentially toxic for us.”
The largest takeaway from Kelly’s nutritional analysis was the most alarming. “I’ve seen a lot of high school, middle school, and elementary school food lists and menus, and they’re not dissimilar to what the Bureau of Prisons offers,” Kelly said.
Nutritionist Ben Kelly says that children’s school lunch menus are not much different from the Bureau of Prisons’ menu for inmates.
Kelly sees a sweeping nutritional problem: “It’s ludicrous that we’re feeding kids and prisoners in this country these foods, and no one’s doing anything about it. Is it any wonder why there’s an obesity crisis? In 2022, we’re in the unhealthiest state I’ve seen in my lifetime. And it’s a direct result of the food we’re feeding ourselves.”
I can’t argue with Kelly. The day I left prison, I was 340 pounds. My blood sugar was 386. My A1C was 7.5.
I was the size of a house after just three months in MDC-Brooklyn pretrial lock-up. When I left prison, I was even bigger, and in worse shape.
My daily blood sugar is now in the 107-111 range, and my A1C is about a 5. It’s taken me a year and a half, but I’m back down below 260 (with much better body composition, body fat, and muscle mass), and I’m headed lower.
In response to the sReader above, just like Morgan Spurlock’s health in SUPERSIZE ME after McDonald’s, I found it extremely easy to get your health derailed while in BOP custody. But it takes time to get back on track. The problem is that many inmates can’t get on track because of poor food choices and lack of exercise (especially during COVID-19).
Additionally, Compassionate Release and Home Detention for elderly and sick inmates may sound positive. But the motivation is nefarious: to keep these sick inmates in BOP custody would cause EXPLOSIVE healthcare costs because the prisons are required to provide adequate medical care.
And the reason for the health problems is years of exposure to the toxic environment, where a poor nutritional environment plays a large role in causing the harm.
When will the country realize that the Bureau of Prisons kills inmates and creates explosive medical costs through poor nutritional choices?
Like so many others, I was a victim of “FED Poisoning.”
Richard Luthmann is a writer, commentator, satirist, and investigative journalist with degrees from Columbia University and the University of Miami. Once a fixture in New York City and State politics, Luthmann is a recovering attorney who lives in Southwest Florida and a proud member of the National Writers Union.
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