Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Lethal Injection of Soy: Less than Sustainable Food in Illinois’ Prisons

Shortly after Rod Blagojevich took office in 2002, inmates of the Illinois prison system found themselves under a new form of torture: all meat products in their meals began to be infused with 70% soy based meat substitute, and soy is slowly taking over the starch and dairy components of their meals, as well, creating a less than sustainable food supply for inmates that are afforded little to no health care. While Blagojevich may be out of office, soy continues to be the main meal on prisoners’ trays.

Far from a righteous vegetarians’ attempt to rectify prisoners’ sins of homicide and robbery with herbivorous pacificism, the change in diet can be traced back to one of Blagojevich’s lead campaign backers: Archer Daniels Midland, supplier of soy to those behind bars in Illinois. ADM sees its role as providing food to an increasingly hungry world and was even just awarded a Social Responsibility Award from the Foreign Policy Association this past May. The Foreign Policy Association bestowed the honor on ADM for the “meaningful role” they play in “furthering economic, social and environmental progress through the alignment of its corporate strategy and social investments” with regards to sustainable food.

Despite this positive press and soy’s reputation as a low calorie substitute to beef, even the FDA lists soy in its Poisonous Plant Database, recognizing that it should be eaten sparsely as it is not a sustainable food supply, leading to major health complications. After six years of a diet 70% soy-based, Illinois prisoners are voicing health complications including both physical symptoms (vomiting, diarrhea, heart palpitations, insomnia, autoimmune disease and hypothyroidism) as well as emotional symptoms, namely depression, which is directly linked to excessive soy consumption. (Furthermore, the Political Economy Research Institute lists ADM as the second largest contributor of corporate air pollution!)

With the help of the Weston A. Price Foundation, the prisoners have been afforded an attorney, demanding an injunction against soy based foods in the prison system. With any hope, prisoners will be able to return to the “sustainable food” that formerly constituted their feasts.

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