Cost of Kosher Meals for Prisoners is Anything but Kosher

By Brandon Lewis, Staff Writer
@Brandon_S_Lewis

/PHOTO VIA Flickr user Henk Kosters

Is the cost of a kosher meal too high for the Florida prison system?/PHOTO VIA Flickr user Henk Kosters

Gone are the days of unrecognizable mashed potatoes and beans in prison cafeterias. Kosher offerings are being added to the menus of prisons across the country. According to a New York Times article, Florida is the latest state to fall under the kosher spell.

In 2007, Florida penitentiaries stopped serving kosher food because of its high cost. Now, under a court order, the sunshine state will offer kosher food to eligible inmates sometime before July, becoming the 35th state to do so.

I think it’s great that kosher food is making a comeback, but the state is running into the same problem as before: paying for these meals. On average, kosher meals cost $7 per day, as opposed to standard meals which cost $1.54.

In Florida, over 4,400 inmates have requested kosher meals. If you multiply the number of requests by $7 a day, that leaves Florida having to take out a larger chunk from their budget. And it’s estimated that more prisoners will request kosher options once the meals make their way back into the system, which already faces a $58 million deficit at the moment.

So it may not be too wise for the state to go through with the kosher program.

Kosher food isn’t necessarily healthier, but it does garner some health benefits such as the reduction of cholesterol. Kosher guidelines prevent people from simultaneously eating meat and dairy, which eliminates foods like pepperoni pizza and cheeseburgers (i.e. the foods we all love but shouldn’t be indulging in). Another benefit is that kosher meat and poultry are hormone free, so you don’t have to worry about becoming susceptible to the effects of hormone-induced meat.

If I were an inmate, I would certainly appreciate Florida’s efforts to provide a religious diet considering the size of the Jewish population. But if I were looking at it from a state government point of view, I would have to consider the fact that the kosher program could potentially cost $54.1 million a year. That’s definitely not chump change.

Regardless, kosher food is making a return to Florida prisons, and I hope it won’t have the same fate as it did in 2007.

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