By: Gunther Fiek

Posted by: Bob Chatelle

1:50 pm. That’s the time my dorm was called to dinner on this nice but hot Sunday afternoon. Dinner! Not lunch. We were the first dorm to go, and they were done feeding all dorms by 4pm. And it sure caught everyone by surprise.

Feed-off usually begins here at around 2:30 just about everyday so I’m not certain of the reasoning behind starting this early — not that they have to give us one, though. They usually do what they want anyway. (When I say ‘they’ I refer to prison officials). And consider that the only other meal that we had today was breakfast at around 6 this morning. That’s right. No lunch on the weekends.

Since the start of my stint in prison, the DOC only provided three meals a day, breakfast, lunch and dinner, on Mondays through Fridays. On Saturdays and Sundays we only had breakfast and dinner. Then, a few years ago, between 2007 and ’08 ( can’t remember), the DOC decided to change from a five day work week to a four day work week as a way to save money. That meant that only essential staff worked on Fridays. It also meant that inmates did not have to work, save kitchen detail guys, and there was no programs to attend. So Friday was pretty much treated as an off day, except no visitation — it was the beginning of our three day weekend.

I also remember that when I began serving my sentence, the amount of food on our trays were a bit more satisfying. There was also more variety in the menu on all meals. But as years went by, the rations served got smaller and the variety in the menu began to gradually vanish. If I’m not mistaken, the DOC is supposed to give us between 2000 and 2300 calories per day. There is no way in the world that we are actually receiving that calorie intake per day with the amount of food the average inmate receives on a daily basis. Much less on the weekends when only two meals are provided. A person of sound mind would say that since we only have two meals maybe the portions served would be more adequate. Nah! It does not make a difference with the DOC. In fact, depending on the menu for the weekend, those portions seem smaller.

I want to emphasize this: The issues with the meals that I’m pointing here are across the board — at all DOC facilities. One thing that does vary is the chow call schedule with some institutions starting before 4 pm and others afterwards. To be fare, I do want to point out that feed-off time is quite hectic specially at large facilities. Is not just a stressful and tense time for the inmates but also for the staff. Rowdy inmates take full advantage of this time to show off.

Additionally, and also to be fair, inmates that have certain health issues are serve with special diets and others receive an additional snack (a.g. Milk, fruit, cereal). On those days when we receive only two meals, those same inmates receive snacks and a couple of sandwiches around mid morning. However, the inmates receiving those special diet trays or snacks are just a small percentage of the inmate population per prison. So this post concerns the average inmate as myself.

So whether we have dinner at 2 or 4 in the afternoon, does one not think that come 8 or 9 pm one is not going to be hungry? Specially young inmates in their 20’s or early 30’s? And consider that the next meal, breakfast, won’t be serve until sometime after 5 the next morning. This means that anywhere from 12 to 16 hours will go by before the next meal. Unless you are fortunate enough to have the support from family and friends and are able to receive funds for some expenses such as the inmate commissary, many spend hours with a growly stomach. In the commissary, one can purchase some hygiene items as well as snacks to supplement the meals provided by the DOC.

It saddens me to say that there are a number of inmates that are not as fortunate as I have been. Georgia, compared to other states, does not pay inmates for work that they do. We are completely dependent of family and friends. And it can also be a heavy burden on some families. I have been blessed that my family has been able to provide – albeit some difficult times – as well as with the support from friends and others that my family and I have received. I’m very thankful and, in the same way, I make an effort to bless others in need.