Is food more than a means of survival? An overview of the Balkan prison systems

Simanovic, Tia and Gosev, Masa (2019) Is food more than a means of survival? An overview of the Balkan prison systems. Appetite, 143. 104405. ISSN 0195-6663 (

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Food is a versatile national, social, and cultural marker. It represents more than just a means of survival (Stajcic, 2013); it is an expression of identity (Jones, 2017). Food has a symbolic power and carries a sense of community, relays customs, habits, and values. According to Godderis (2006), people “do” food. In institutional settings, such as prisons, often stripped of basic human rights and dignity, food can acquire yet another dimensions. It can become a means to pass time, regain normalcy, and cope with daily hardships. Despite its multifaceted importance, there is a paucity of research on prisoners’ diet, with most being done on the US, UK, and Scandinavian prison systems (Smoyer, 2019; Smoyer & Kjaer Minke, 2015). This article drew from academic and non-academic sources (e.g., government reports, newspaper articles, prison blogs) to provide an overview of the Balkan prison systems through the lens of food. It will present weekly menus from three different countries and discuss alternative ways of accessing food in prisons (i.e., through prison commissary, prison farms, and food packages). It will further demonstrate prisoners' use of food to regain autonomy in the context of multiple deprivations. Lastly, this paper will reflect on the role of food, coffee, and cigarettes in prisoners’ socialization, as well as in reiteration of prisoner subculture.


Simanovic, Tia ORCID logoORCID: and Gosev, Masa;