Comfort food in prison at Christmas time

Comfort food in prison at Christmas time

VUB study investigates the mitigating role of Christmas meal in prisons in Denmark, The Netherlands and Belgium

For her doctoral thesis, An-Sofie Vanhouche examined the role of nutrition in prisons in Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium. She also investigated the role of festive meals: "A Christmas dinner in prisons is often considered a luxury. Yet, in reality, it often means only a small amount of attention to go through a difficult period in isolation." Her research was conducted 2013-2017 under the direction of Kristel Beyens and Peter Scholliers of the VUB Department of Criminology and Linda Kjaer Minke of the University of Southern Denmark. 



In prisons, food plays an important role in daily life. It breaks through boredom, brings structure and sometimes pleasure to the day of a prisoner.

But it also symbolizes the loss of freedom, especially during the holidays. When families gather around the Christmas table, prisoners celebrate these days in seclusion. Celebrating Christmas alone is not an obvious thing. Research has already shown that the number of suicides is higher during holidays.

To alleviate such periods, which are experienced as difficult, the prison system invests in festive meals. A tasty meal can soften this period a little. The prison system tries to do this with the resources they have: "To prepare a Christmas dinner, some prisons save on other weekly menus. This way, you can still provide a little extra”, An-Sofie Vanhouche explains.



An-Sofie Vanhouche


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