>Users:   login   |  register       > email     > people    

Commissary Snacks and Health: How Can We Keep Inmate-Patients on the Right Track?
By Barbara Wakeen, MA, RDN, LD, CCFP, CCHP
Published: 01/29/2018

Barb wakeen crop Ahhh, the commissary, where inmates can indulge their whims for candy, honey buns, beef jerky, chips and more. But what if their chronic care treatment plan calls for a therapeutic diet? What if regularly consuming sweets and high-carbohydrate snacks compromises a diabetes patient’s blood glucose levels? How can facilities intervene to ensure that snacking habits don’t lead to poor outcomes?

Commissaries present opportunities and challenges for correctional facilities. They generate revenue for the facility, with those dollars often used to offset other expenses or to support inmate programs. They also offer some over-the-counter medications, which reduces demand for some health services. And the treats and sundries that can be bought make for happier inmates and, thus, a more peaceful facility.

The challenges arise when commissary selections are contraindicated for varying therapeutic diets. For some chronic health issues, such as diabetes, diet directly impacts health. Noncompliance with a therapeutic diet leads to a need for medical care and increases medical costs.

Commissaries typically offer a variety of food choices, from those considered “healthy” and suitable for most types of diets to the “unhealthy” items that are high in sugar, fat and sodium. These unhealthy foods may be inappropriate for restrictive diets, such as those addressing diabetes, allergies, hypertension, cardiac disease and kidney failure.

Tracking or Limiting Purchases

To get a better handle on correctional facility commissaries, I conducted a small, informal survey of food service directors and dietitians at facilities across the country on the food products they offer and the preferred items. Unfortunately, the healthier items (e.g., oatmeal, black beans, brown rice, halal meats, trail mix, sugar-free candy) tend to be the least popular, while the most popular items are – you guessed it – the junk food.

The survey also asked whether the facilities have any policies that limit inmates’ access to the commissary or the choices available. Overall, I found that most do not impose limitations, viewing commissary purchases as an inmate privilege or right. However, some make exceptions for specified situations based on custody level, special housing (such as segregation) or risk of self-harm. With regard to medical concerns, some facilities do limit the items that individual inmates may purchase based on their prescribed diet or special diet needs.

In some systems, the commissary software will flag purchases that are not permitted due to diet. For example, for a diabetic diet, snack items might be limited to approximately 15 grams of carbohydrates per serving and have lower fat content and preferably little added sugar. For even better patient management, some systems can review inmates’ commissary purchases to assess and control compliance with diets. A couple of facilities reported use of a protocol to restrict access, such as an altered commissary form that highlights items that are outside of diet parameters or removes them from the list. One survey respondent reported that inmates with restricted diets may be housed in single cell so that a cellmate cannot procure the prohibited foods for them. At another facility, patients housed in the infirmary may be denied commissary purchases altogether. Another form of limitation is based on cost; for example, purchases may not exceed a certain dollar amount per week.

Making Healthy Choices

Some of my survey respondents reported that healthy foods were not available in the commissary, and typically it’s because the vendor will not provide them due to lack of demand. But fortunately, most commissaries do carry healthy options, and these can be easily identified by symbols that indicate, for example, “smart choice” or “healthier choice” (as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture), as well as “gluten free” or “contains nuts.”

How to encourage inmate-patients to make these choices? Here, education on diet and medication issues is critical. For patients who are receiving a diabetes diet, for example, they may be informed that it is not necessary to supplement their diet with additional food from the commissary, and that if they do, they should choose wisely when selecting snacks and limit their intakes to single-serving portions.

Patients’ noncompliance with prescribed diets can have serious negative results, such as unstable blood sugar levels, possible allergic reactions and increased food and medical costs for the facility. Education and counseling must be ongoing to keep patients motivated. It’s also helpful to have interdisciplinary communications among medical, administration and food service to ensure clear understanding and a unified approach to addressing commissary issues and therapeutic diets. Ultimately, healthier commissary options and better choices by inmate-patients will lead to better outcomes.

SIDEBAR: Defining the Terms: Examples of Diet Parameters
  • Diabetic diet: Snack items limited to those with 15 grams of carbohydrates per serving, with lower fat content and preferably little added sugar
  • Low-fat diet: Foods restricted to those providing 3 grams or less of total fat per serving
  • Low-sodium diet: Limited to items supplying no more than 140 mg of sodium per serving
  • Very-low-sodium diet: Limited to sodium levels of less than 35 mg per serving
  • Low-protein diet: Foods restricted to those supplying no more than 1 gm of protein per serving
  • Low-calorie diet: Foods restricted to those supplying less than 40 calories per serving; entrees less than 250 calories per serving
Barbara Wakeen, MA, RDN, LD, CCFP, CCHP, is the principal of Correctional Nutrition Consultants, Ltd. She is the chair of the board of directors of the National Commission on Correctional Health Care.


  1. hamiltonlindley on 04/14/2020:

    How have your spirits been while under quarantine for COVID-19? We are hopefully halfway through this pandemic’s impact on our economy. It has been a difficult road for us all. It has taught us about our better-and worse-natures. Hamilton Lindley explains how it has impacted his family and work life balance in this latest blog article about how to invest time that we’ve been given to make ourselves better than when we began.

  2. lita7 on 04/10/2020:

    I am so happy to see this post, because all the details are very interesting in this post. Tuft and Needle discount code March 2020

  3. keatonjefferson on 02/29/2020:

    If the government starts providing the best CBD topical to inmates, it would make them a bit more calm. This would allow them to keep their behavior in check and keep out of trouble.

  4. jackwetch on 02/15/2020:

    I thought haven’t read such distinctive material anywhere else on-line.rehab centers in georgia

  5. bekent on 11/02/2019:

    His Secret Obsession: It might be a typical situation that most ladies can't comprehend men's sentiments or their response to a specific circumstance. It is the reason numerous couples experience issues while they are seeing someone, most exceedingly terrible, they wind up offering up without getting the correct responses. his secret obsession program It's anything but a mystery that people demonstration and think in an unexpected way, and with the assistance of His Secret Obsession audit, ladies will have the option to discover arrangements and comprehend their partner without taking a chance with their relationship. His Secret Obsession is a program containing a 137-page eBook and sound document that instructs the mystery that men truly need. Its will probably conquer any hindrance between two inverse sex and give ladies how to manage men's conduct. It was said that ladies should regard men in the event that they should be adored. reviews of his secret obsession They care about getting regard than accepting affection. This program empowers ladies to understand the things that will either cause struggle or fabricate a relationship.

  6. Nancy phelma on 06/19/2019:

    This is a great way of keeping inmate-patients on the right track, and if you can give them kamagra oral jelly suisse, then it would benefit the patients even more. I hope that this will happen in the future.

  7. NganHa on 05/28/2019:

    Bài viết dưới đây Dinhduongmangthai.com sẽ cung cấp đến các bạn tất cả các thông tin cần biết về khoai lang, cũng như tìm hiểu chi tiết về thành phần dinh dưỡng khoai lang tím, giá trị dinh dưỡng của khoai lang, các lợi ích của khoai lang đối với sức khỏe.

  8. StephanieCasey on 02/08/2019:

    Hasta yatağı satın almak veya kiralamak için online olarak uygun fiyatlarla hasta yatakları hizmeti veren web sitemizi ziyaret edebilirsiniz.

  9. Sovilsingh73 on 02/23/2018:

    Thanks For Sharing This information …. Really Helpful for us…… Regards Sovil Singh – Hindi Status

Login to let us know what you think

User Name:   


Forgot password?

correctsource logo

Use of this web site constitutes acceptance of The Corrections Connection User Agreement
The Corrections Connection ©. Copyright 1996 - 2021 © . All Rights Reserved | 15 Mill Wharf Plaza Scituate Mass. 02066 (617) 471 4445 Fax: (617) 608 9015