Could you feed desperate men on pounds 1.52 a day? hy

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The daily diet of an inmate in one of Britain's jails costs just pounds 1.52. Benjamin Todd examines a new report on the quality of prison catering and asks a leading chef to devise an alternative menu.

Meal times are a ``potential flash point'' in Britain's prisons with poor quality food causing disturbances and violence, according to a report published today. But food can also provide a vital method of maintaining order.

The study examined how prison cooks coped with having only pounds 1.52 to spend on providing prisoners with three meals a day. It concludes that most of the food was ``acceptable''.

The Independent, however, has obtained the services of restaurateur and television chef, Antony Worrall Thompson, who considers the jail menus dull and monotonous. For the same money he has devised a special menu that includes Thai style stir-fry cuttlefish, Rajastani rabbit curry, compared with baked potato and cheese and sausage roll.

Mr Worrall Thompson felt the prison menu was far too boring. "Prison food is very monotonous. There's no imagination involved. It's just stodge, which may be quite filling but isn't very healthy."

Researchers, commissioned by the National Audit Office, visited 12 prisons in England and Wales. The Prison Service spends pounds 60m a year on catering, half of which goes on the cost of ingredients. They agreed that prison catering had improved since the early 1990s. But they expressed concern over small portions, non-existent meal choices, food being cooked too far in advance and large time gaps between meals. At Woodhill Prison near Milton Keynes, inmates were supposed to be given 4oz of meat or protein per meal, but only received one-and-a-half ounces.

Mr Worrall Thompson, who is the cook on BBC2's Food and Drink programme brought some healthy living to the menu. ``A lot of the prisoners work out when they're behind bars," he said. "So they don't just want fatty pies."

For breakfast, out went the traditional porridge and boiled eggs. They were replaced with kidney. "It's a healthy and tasty start to the day." He also added a Moroccan dish - Chicken Tagine. "In my experience, prisoners love spicy food," he explained.

However, Mr Worrall Thompson could not afford to use real basil and garlic with the stir-fried pork ribbons. "But the powdered type would be fine" he said. His menu added up to pounds 1.25 per person. This left 27p spare for side dishes like salad, potatoes, rice and bread.

A taste of two menus

A sample prison menu


One boiled egg or cereal or porridge.

Two pieces of toast, 1 sachet of margarine and 1 sachet of marmalade


Macaroni cheese or individual quiche or sausage roll with one type of potato (boiled, jacket, roasted or chips) and one type of seasonal vegetable (e.g. peas, or carrots)

Sometimes followed by a bun.


Baked potato and cheese or individual chicken vindaloo or individual lasagne or gammon steak and pineapple with one type of potato and one type of seasonal vegetable.

All meals are served with tea or tap water. One sachet of coffee is available during breakfast.

Cost per day pounds 1.52 per person.

Antony Worrall Thompson's



Herb mushrooms and kidneys on toast. Extra toast.


Chicken tagine with couscous or vegetarian lasagne.

Side dishes like salad, potatoes, rice and bread.


Stir-fried pork ribbons with string beans and basil, garlic and chilli sauce or Thai-style stir-fry cuttlefish or salmon and dill fish cake or Rajastani rabbit curry or lentil and vegetable curry.

Side dishes like salad, potatoes, rice and bread.

Cost also at pounds 1.52 per day per person, based on a pounds 7,600 budget for a prison with 500 inmates.