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A Panel of Inmates Is Testing Missouri's Prison Snacks

Among the now rejected items are the following: Gurley’s Lemon Drops, Wortz Vanilla Wafer cookies, Granny Goose Cheese Puffs, and Tito’s brand Hot and Spicy Dill Pickles.
February 15, 2016, 6:00pm
Photo via Flickr user foreverdigital

The state of Missouri—or "The Show Me State," as we're sure absolutely nobody refers to it—currently has more than 30,000 inmates in its prison system. The food they eat is probably as heinous as that eaten by prisoners nationwide, but those 30,000 Missouri inmates have to eat something outside of the three standard meals provided to them by the state. Money from the snack foods that are sold to prisoners provides a near-unending source of revenue for the Missouri Department of Corrections—the agency tasked with operating the state's prison facilities—and they are going to great lengths to make sure prisoners buy what they're selling.

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Snacks are such a money-maker for the Missouri Department of Corrections that they've decided to set up a taste-testing panel of inmates that determines which snack foods items will be sold in prison commissaries. After all, figures released by the Corrections Department show that each of the state's 21 prisons sold more than $1 million in snacks in 2014. Hell, some facilities, like the Farmington Correctional Center or the Northeast Correctional Center, sold $2 million in snacks and over-the-counter medicine.

READ MORE: The Worst Prison Food Dish Is Finally Off the Menu in New York

All of this is to say that the Missouri Department of Corrections doesn't want to be wasting money and storage space on snacks that aren't going to be raking in said piles of money. According to Corrections spokesperson David Owen, the state's inmate-led product screening was developed so the state doesn't have to throw away all the snacks inmates aren't buying.

"Similar to a retail or grocery store, products that do not sell in the canteens can tie up inventory and may end up expiring before being purchased, which can lead to products being written off and destroyed," explained Owen to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Among the now rejected items are the following: Gurley's Lemon Drops, Wortz Vanilla Wafer cookies, Granny Goose Cheese Puffs, and Tito's brand Hot and Spicy Dill Pickles. The panel was made up of nine randomly selected inmates.

READ MORE: In Prison, Sharing Ramen Can Be More Powerful Than Gang Affiliation

During the taste testing, the panel of nine is divided into three groups, which sit three to a table. They are told not to speak during the voting. The inmates test one item at a time and are asked the big question: Would they buy the item from the prison store? "If a majority of the panel answers yes, the product is approved," Owen said.

So now we know that at least a few prisoners in this country have a say in what they get to eat. And when it came to something called Brushy Creek brand mackerel fillets? They gave it a resounding "no thanks."