chow hall

What is the Chow Hall like?

There is not an exact set time for breakfast, lunch and dinner in the BOP.  There is a time range within which we are likely to be called.  It’s best to be ready and waiting as people swarm the chow hall when they leave the unit.  A lot of inmates will line up near the door and wait for the page to come in over the intercom “Durand unit to main line, Durand unit to mainline”.  We walk to the chow hall and after entering you can go left or right to either food line – which are both the same, just a way to increase efficiency.  If you get there late you have a long line to wait in before you get your food and subsequently an even shorter time to eat.  Not much time for conversation.

One thing I heard from a few people before I surrendered to Yankton Federal Prison Camp is that the food in the Federal Prison system is actually pretty good.  That’s holding somewhat true.  Not every meal is my favorite, but it is better than I expected.  The serving sizes are also far larger than I thought they would be – no one is going hungry here.  After time, you get to know many of the inmates, and you can tell that the people who work in the kitchen want to do a good job preparing the food we all eat.  They care, they also eat well – perks of the job.  One of the cooks sometimes comes out and asks people how they are enjoying their meal.  Sure, it’s part mockery of a fine dining restaurant, but he also is genuinely curious and wants people to enjoy what they eat.  Everyone has a job here, and if you do it poorly, you affect the other inmates.

We are on a 5 week rotating schedule.  Every Federal Prison follows the same schedule.  So on Tuesday afternoon, week 2, every Federal Inmate (all 155,500) who shows up for lunch is eating chicken sandwiches with pinto beans and rice.  (Sandwich includes several pickle slices, 1 slice of tomato and one piece of iceberg lettuce).  We usually get an orange or an apple for fruit, sometimes watermelon, and for desert a cookie or a slice of cake.

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