Prisoners dine in while patients sentenced to slop
LIFE behind bars no longer means bread and water for NSW inmates who are dining out on fresh, quality meals including snacks and desserts.
But the food served to patients in the state's public hospital system is nothing short of a crime.
While prisoners lap up lashings of roast meats, desserts and fresh fruit and vegetables, those unfortunate enough to be stuck in a public hospital ward are being served food so blatantly bad many are relying on relatives to bring in meals. Celebrity chef Colin Fassnidge was tasked by The Daily Telegraph to rate the food available to inmates and patients.
Using his own Michelin star-like system of either handcuffs or stethoscopes to rate the meals on offer, Fassnidge did not hold back when comparing the fare.
The Delicious contributor said prisoners were getting a "good selection" of fresh fruit and vegetables.
"The prison food has got all the components for a healthy meal and the place that's meant to be pushing health is serving stodge," he said. "Everything at the hospital is beige.
"It's not just drugs that are going to get people better, it's food and nutrition, too."
Nutrition and patient advocates have condemned examples of meals served in NSW hospitals compared to what criminals locked in the state's jails receive for a much lower cost to the taxpayer.
A prison menu obtained by The Daily Telegraph shows, in an average week, an inmate can expect wide variety of curries, schnitzel, salads, roast meals, fresh fruit and desserts.
They also have a vegetarian option and can choose meals that cater for religious and cultural needs.
Meanwhile, NSW hospital patients have opened up about their horror food stories, highlighting the poor quality of offerings served in the state's health facilities.
A Sydney mum shared a photo of her unrecognisable meal of dried meat and boiled potato from Campbelltown Hospital, while others have posted pictures of overcooked vegetables, soggy lasagne and mystery meats.
HealthShare NSW provides food to the state's hospitals, spending an average of $14 per meal - much more than the $10 a day spent on prisoners. But critics have argued the menu for patients does not reflect the bigger budget.
Independent patient advocate Dorothy Kamaker said hospital food was "so bad" many families brought in food for their relatives.
"I have no doubt that the food in jails is better than what is given to patients," Ms Kamaker said.
A HealthShare spokeswoman said a new program called My Food Choice was now operating in 39 public hospitals and would be rolled out to more in the near future. But, she said, all meals served by the organisation complied with existing rules.
"All meals meet mandatory NSW Health nutrition standards and strict requirements on quality and safety," she said.
Nutritionist Shannon Rosie Barge said it was not good enough to just "tick boxes" to meet a checklist of health requirements without considering food quality.
"Simply looking at the energy, fat and carbohydrates ratio and not looking at the quality of foods is insufficient," she said.
"And if you are overcooking things, all the nutrients that would be in the food if they're fresher would be lost."
Ms Barge said she had never eaten hospital food as a patient because she knew the importance of fuelling her body the right way.
"The food you eat every single day will either be fighting off disease or causing disease," she said.
"If you're someone in hospital and do need that extra TLC, you would absolutely need better quality food."
A recently released prisoner said jail food could sometimes seem a "bit monotonous" but really "isn't that bad".
She said fresh cakes, biscuits and muffins were "traded'' as currency inside NSW jails.