Scared Healthy

Jail may not be the ideal place to detox and purify our trans fat-riddled bodies (just ask Paris Hilton, apparently force-fed bologna during her agonizingly brief stay), but even though you may be incarcerated, that's no good excuse for letting yourself go. And after a two-year battle, inmates at the San Francisco County Jail can now nibble on healthy snacks, such as granola, plain oatmeal, dried fruit, Clif and Luna bars, and multi-grain crackers for the first time in the facility's history.

Over at the women's jail, the idea to bring healthy snacks to the jail's commissary (the equivalent of a convenience store, except for convicts) started taking shape in 2005. Inmates wanted healthy snacks after learning that candy bars, Cheetos, blueberry muffins, and snacks from Little Debbie aren't the nutritional powerhouses one might think. Under the guidance of Nextcourse, a volunteer organization that teaches the gals how to cook nutritious, delicious, healthful fare, a committee of eight female prisoners did a study breaking down the nutritional value of the snacks in the commissary. Sheriff Mike Hennessy even supported the idea. But the vendor had a hard time making it happen.

That's because getting prisoners (and heck, the rest of the country) to buy those highfalutin fancier foods is not an easy task, according to Henry Medeiros, the Bay Area district general manager for Canteen Corrections, the jail's chosen snack vendor. Hey, money talks, even if cellulite walks. With market demand for a Snickers bar significantly higher than, say, for a peanut butter Luna Bar, Snickers bars are a hell of a lot cheaper to buy and sell than granola or dried fruit. "What Nextcourse wants to see in there is the highest-price items," Medeiros said. "If it doesn't move, I lose it."

Can't blame Medeiros; he needs to make his salary, too, but he's holding out hope that granola can someday outsell Goobers.

So far, the women inmates lead the male inmates in the healthy shopping department. On June 27, Medeiros was pleased to report that the ladies of S.F. County Jail indulged in 21 packets of plain oatmeal, along with eight Luna bars, four Clif bars, and six Fruitons. The male inmates posted dismal numbers, purchasing only three Clif bars.

Remember, boys, when Paris Hilton needs a date for next year's Correctional Sadie Hawkins Dance, she's not going to go with a fatty. Now put down the doughnut and pick up the PowerBar.

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