Former Baywatch star and Playboy model recently took a visit to Maricopa County jails in Phoenix, Arizona to help promote and serve vegan meals. Ms. Anderson, an animal rights activist, vegan, and spokeswoman for Peoples for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), partnered with Sheriff Joe Arpaio to share with inmates the health and ethical benefits of a vegan diet. (1)
Maricopa County jail has eliminated meat since September 2013.
In a recent press release by Sheriff Arpaio’s office, he stated that the jail welcomed PETA into their jail system, which he considers one of the best in the nation. Recently they decided to remove salt and sugar from inmates’ diets solely for health purposes. They also eliminated coffee and condiments to save taxpayer money. In addition, the recent decision to eliminate meat has saved the county an estimated $200,000 a year. (2)
With Ms. Anderson jumping on board, she hopes to see the transformation continue. “I believe people can be rehabilitated from the inside out,” states Ms. Anderson, a longtime vegan. “Jails are full of people wanting to change, to make amends, to learn healthier habits and understand compassion and empathy.” (2,3)
It’s not just about money, but overall health too!
“It’s not just a money issue because health is important; it’s 2,600 calories, and that’s a lot of calories,” Arpaio said. “They may not like the food, but if they don’t, the other alternative is to not go to jail.” (1)
A clinical assistant professor at Arizona State University’s School of Nutrition and Health Promotion, Melinda Johnson, says that a vegan diet is one of the healthiest options for optimal health. (1) In fact, several studies have backed up the benefits of a vegan diet, including cancer prevention, beating heart disease, lowering blood pressure, reversing diabetes, asthma, and more. (4)
Ms. Johnson noted that making a change to a vegan diet in the jail system might mean that many inmates will lose weight, either due to their dislike of the new food or needing to eat less because of higher nutrition content in the vegan meals. She cautions us to keep aware. “I’m not sure how closely they monitor inmates for weight loss and if they have any policies in place to make changes if there continues to be weight loss, because that can start to degrade their health,” she said. (1)
We shall see the outcome as time progresses.
The transition process is still in effect.
According to Yahoo reports, the jail system made the transition in late 2013, however the current contracts still permitted Maricopa County jails to purchase meat-related items. The contract, which is provided by large food companies, was reworked in 2014 and will remain in effect until May 2017. (1,5)
Currently, the county still include options where inmates can buy meat-related snacks and food items, however this agreement will end in coming December. (1) The focus in Maricopa County jails on meatless meals is the fight to protect animals, promote health, and save money. Arpaio says, “I don’t know why every other jail and prison wouldn’t want to copy what we’ve accomplished here,” says the Sheriff. “It works on every level: financially for the taxpayer, health-wise for the inmate.” (2)
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