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Prison Foodways



Description: In recent years, the notion that prison meals can be used as a measure to increase understanding of daily prison life, has inspired a growing interest in the food served in penitentiaries. However, the extant scholarship remains limited to food studies in Anglo-Saxon and Nordic countries. This study sheds light on food policies, and the associated food narratives, of both staff and prisoners. This qualitative study, based on interviews with 19 staff members and 48 prisoners on their food experiences, was conducted in four Belgian prisons, Tilburg prison in the Netherlands, and Nyborg prison in Denmark. In addition, six months of participant observations were undertaken. The results show that pre-prepared meals can be perceived as part of the prison’s deprivations, but that the introduction of a self-catering system, enabled prisoners to regain autonomy, control, responsibility, and a greater sense of self. Based on these results, prison food narratives were framed within three frameworks: normalisation, prisoners’ identity work, and dynamic security..

Outputs: Doctoral dissertation, scientific contributions, scientific activities, working papers, contribution to vulgarizing publications.

Relevant publications:

Vanhouche, A. & Beyens, K. (2020). Prison Foodways: International and multidisciplinary perspectives. Appetite, 147, 1-2. (Introduction to a thematic issue on prison foodways: online available at

Vanhouche, A. (2019). Food Trust in Low Trust Environments. Appetite, 142.

Vanhouche, A., Kjaer Minke, L., & Smoyer, A. (2018). Couscous in Tilburg Prison: Food Narratives and the Quality of Life in a Belgian-Dutch Prison. The Prison Service Journal, 238, 3-9

Vanhouche, A., Kjaer Minke, L., Smoyer, A. (2019). Eten in de gevangenis. In A. Zaalberg, Voeding en justitiabelen: van strafelement naar rehabilitatie-instrument (pp.117-134). Den Haag: Cahier Wetenschappelijk onderzoek- en documentatiecentrum Ministerie van Justitie en Veiligheid.

Vanhouche, A. (2015). Acceptance or Refusal of Convenience Food in Present-Day Prison. Appetite, 94, 47-53.

CoordinatorKristel Beyens, Peter Scholliers, Linda Kjaer Minke

ResearcherAn-Sofie Vanhouche

Partner: University of Southern Denmark

Funding: Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek  (FWO)

Duration: 2013-2017