Food in prison

What food will I get in prison?

You will be provided with 3 meals a day; normally breakfast, lunch and dinner. You should have access to drinking water at all times. You should also be provided with the facilities to prepare a minimum of four hot drinks a day

Prisons have to do checks to make sure the food they give you is good enough. For example, that it is healthy, safe to eat and that you get enough food.

Prison Rule 24 says:

‘The food provided shall be wholesome, nutritious, well prepared and served, reasonably varied and sufficient in quantity’

Speak to catering staff (staff who work in the kitchen) if you have a problem with the food.

Do I get a choice of food?

Before meals, you will be able to choose the food you want to eat from a menu. The menu should include options to cater for a variety of diets including for religious reasons or health reasons, as well as special diets such as vegan and vegetarian.

The NOMS Catering Operating Manual, which is Annex B of PSI 44/2010 Catering – Meals for Prisoners, states the following:

"It is a fundamental requirement that prisoners and members of staff are provided with meals which meet an individual’s religious, cultural and medical dietary needs. It is further necessary that all prisoners are provided with food commodities that are stored, prepared and served in an appropriate way. The menu choices and meal provision must reflect the religious and cultural needs of the establishment."

If you require a particular diet as part of a medical condition (such as coeliac or diabetic) you should ask to see someone from Healthcare. They can prescribe treatment and confirm your dietary needs with the prison.  The catering department should be notified of any medical diets along with advice on how to meet the medical condition

PSI 05/2016 Faith and Pastoral Care contains useful annexes outlining diets and religious festivals of various recognised faiths.

Meal Times

Meal times in prison should be similar to those within the community. There should also be a minimum of four and a half hours between the beginning of lunch service and the beginning of evening meal service.

Food Temperature

Cooking of food should be carried out ‘as late as possible so as to ensure that the minimum amount of time is given to possible food bacterial growth before serving’.

The time between the completion of the cooking process and the commencement of service should not be more than 45 minutes. In addition, hot food should be served ‘hot’ which means at a temperature above 63°C.

Further information

Useful PSIs and PSOs (these should be available in the library):

PSI 44/2010 Catering–Meals for Prisoners 

PSI 05/2016 Faith and Pastoral Care for Prisoners


The Prison Rules (1999)

HMIP paper Life in prison: Food

Guide for Vegan Prisoners (produced by VPSG and The Vegan Society)

For a print-ready version of this information, click here.