“Pretty in Pink” Publicist Takes on Prison Poison Issue

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Political corruption, hardened criminals, corporate greed, toxic food, innocent victims and controversy, the Prison Soy lawsuit has to be the most fascinating project I have ever worked on.  It has all the elements for a riveting 48 Hours episode or gritty 60 Minutes expose.  Come to think of it, maybe I better call those producers! Thought I’d share today what’s been going on.

For those of you who don’t know, the Weston A. Price Foundation is helping a group of Illinois prison inmates with a lawsuit to cease the soy foods in their diet.  Nearly all the meat, cheese and wheat in their diet has been replaced by soy based substitutes. This overload of soy is making them very ill.  They are literally choking it down, or starving if they can’t afford to buy alternative food at their commissary.  Their requests for an alternative diet have, in effect, been ignored.  At the end of this post, you will find links to more background information on the case, including the actual legal complaint that they have filed.

In my role as publicist, I am working to create public awareness of the issue. Our press release has sample letters that concerned citizens can send.


One of the most heated debates among the fans of our  page was kicked off when I posted the press release about the lawsuit, Cruel and Unusual Punishment: Soy Diet for Illinois Prisoners–Are Children the Next Target for Toxic Meals? Some WAPF Fans are supportive of the case, and a number of them are not. Because anyone on Facebook can fan your organization, we probably are reaching many non-members through our fan page.  This is exciting to me as a publicist, because Facebook fans may eventually join the organization.

The Facebook soy prison case debate is an example of how our members are able to share the WAPF Soy Alert campaign with others who are fans of WAPF, but may be unfamiliar with our concerns about modern soy foods.

Here are some of the highlights of the debate (names have been removed)

PRO: I am probably going to sound radical here, but I quite frankly feel anything one eats in prison should be grown by the sweat of their own brow and the labor of their own backs, not the taxpayer. I am an organic farmer and I work my butt off trying to feed my family and a bunch of other people. I say plow up prison garden plots. My grandmother used to say, “No worky, no eaty!”

CON: I am wondering what gives prisoners the right to file suit against anybody. Hello!?!?! Aren’t they in prison because they are being…..punished? This country is so backwards I would not be surprised to see them win their lawsuit while the public schools continue to serve chocolate skim milk and plastic vegetables and nuggets to our children. I don’t think WAPF should be hiring attorneys and representing them…

PRO: According to law, prisoners are entitled to “nutritionally adequate food” (Ramos v Lamm, 639.2d 559, 1980). Soy is not nutritionally adequate.

CON: Why is WAPF support prisoner rights now? I agree with everything said above, they have no right because they are being punished for committing crime against society and now they want what?! are they going to demand organic produce and grass fed meat next? While those who work their butt off couldn’t even afford them? They are already eating better than a lot of GOOD people in this country! Whatever they want, they need to work it.

PRO: To the folks that are complaining about “prisoners rights”: THESE ARE HUMAN BEINGS. With families, I might add. Families that suffer along with them. Once they are NOT prisoners, they GO HOME. How can they be self supporting and productive members of society after incarceration if their health is wrecked while they are in? People can and do rehabilitate, and need good health just like everyone else.

CON: I actually disagree with this one. Soy is not toxic, although I don’t know if it is GMO soy they are getting. And, of course, depending on preparation and quantity. I think the first step is to start prison gardens/farming, not a law suit against soy. First real food, then get picky!

PRO: i know from personal experience i get very sick eating soy…it is an allergen to alot of people. you think it would be ok to continue to serve gluten to a prisoner even if they had celiac disease?

PRO: What? They fed us those gross soy hamburgers when I was a kid. Thank goodness, I wouldn’t touch them, they seemed to slip soy into anything they could and that was in the 70’s. My kids complain now about the school serving soyburgers. How ’bout bone broth if we’re too poor to give them hamburger.

The farmer in the first comment above has hit upon a plan that brought even the Con folks into agreement. This type of “farm to prison” program is actually working in my home state. Sally Fallon says,  “The state of Virginia provides grass-fed beef to inmates at no cost to the state.  Low-risk prisoners raise the beef at Sky Meadows State Park. The surplus is sold to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, resulting in a net gain for the prison budget.  All over the country prisons are instituting creative ways to save money while teaching inmates new skills, including gardening, animal husbandry, beekeeping, food processing, composting and recycling.”


My calls to the media have been very fruitful.  The disgraced governor Blagojevich’s connection really piqued the interest of an editor at NPR. A bodybuilding magazine editor saw the story as appealing to his many readers who are behind bars and using fitness as a means of “self improvement.” “Poor nutrition would thwart them in achieving their goals,” he admitted. A Catholic newspaper editor in Illinois told me that “Our diocese has 12 prisons in it, so this story is very relevant.”

The New York Times recently did an opinion editorial on prison food, saying, “If governments decide to put inmates behind bars, they have to give them adequate food — which means no less than three healthy meals a day.”  “A major daily newspaper (that I called and sent our press release to),  interviewed Sally Fallon Morell, our President about the soy lawsuit. They are in the beginning stages of working up a story on prison food.  Soon, Sally’s radio interview with a large radio network will air, and on August 15, at 12 noon, she will be doing a live call-in talk show Liberation Wellness on Blog Talk Radio network.


A prison justice group staffer shared with me that she has been tracking stories like this all over the country.  She said the economy is causing prisons to slash nutrition programs–sometimes prisoners are getting only two meals a day.  In one state, a sheriff was even jailed for starving his prisoners. We have a meeting set up with her to see how her group may be able to help these prisoners in the defense of their food. I am also contacting civil liberties groups in an effort to bring them news of the case and enlist their support.


I have reached out to a U.S. Senator and a Congressman who are both known as champions of prison reform.  Repeated calls and emails and I have yet to schedule a meeting with either one. Guess they are too busy passing food safety bills. Arrgh.


Yesterday morning, I had an out of the blue call from a woman who used to work in public relations for a soy food company.  She called me trying to track down Kaayla Daniel, Author of the Whole Soy Story and WAPF Board member.  She had heard Kaayla may be coming out with a new book.

Turns out, while promoting soy foods, she grew alarmed over the GMO issue. She started doing her own research about genetically modified soy. She has since left the industry. I offered to send her the soy prison case press release and she was quite eager to learn about the case.


A biologist who read about our case contacted me.  She is deeply concerned about what soy crops are doing in South America and I asked her to write a guest blog post.  It will appear on Hartke is Online! tomorrow.  This is definitely one you’ll want to read, it will be an eye opener, especially for your friends who are still drinking soy milk! Which reminds me, at the gym this morning I gave an audible UGGH! when I saw a Silk Soymilk commercial bragging about being such a great source of protein.  I won’t even begin to talk about the SoyJoy ad campaign….

Here is the link to the current Prison Soy release on the WAPF website. Other information about the background of the prison soy case is available in our press room, including, our Open Letter to Barack Obama, and the actual legal filing in the case.  Please check it out to learn more.

The blogger that “broke the story” for me is  The Nourished Kitchen blog. Check out her excellent article called Food Wars: Governmental Programs & Industrial Food.