Food: Artefact #1 – Why is the Final Meal so important (or not so important) on Death Row?

Food: Artefact 1

A consideration of food and our interaction with it.  Consider how a food or foods can impact our lives and/or the associations and memories we make with different types.  Research facts and statistics about food/the food industry and media representations of food.  Write a fictional story or a factual article and produce an audio/visual realization of this to show in class.

The Influence behind my script

Goodfellas’ prison dinner scene was found here:

I then went on to find an important article that I have pictured below from The Daily Mail’s online platform. Narratives began springing to mind, I’ve seen a lot of documentaries and television programmes about the life of the incarcerated so decided I was going to create my own interpretation of it and its meaning after carrying out my research in the area.

Death Row Article - DailyMail.png


After spending all week thinking of the term ‘food’ and endlessly changing to new ideas because those previous weren’t interesting enough to me, I finally found something interesting to focus on, the relevance of the Last Meal for inmates on death row.

To my surprise, from what I have read so far there seems to be a fair amount of research that has taken place with focus on areas around the final prison meal before being sentenced to death.

Some Statistics:

Those hard done by or believe they are innocent tend to get 2.5 times less calories in their final meal than those who admit they are guilty.

Study #1: Researchers analysed final meals of 247 prisoners between 2002 and 2006 and proved this hypothesis.

Many factors could contribute to choices made, but researchers thought they could find out about the degree of guilt.

Meat: 83.9%

Fried Chicken: 67.9%

Desserts: 66.3%

Soft Drinks: 60%

Tend to be calorie dense if they are under stress.

20% opted to eat NOTHING.

After briefly reviewing these results, I decided that my narrative would be set in the state of Texas, USA, as it features a relatively large number of executions. The Texas Department of Justice even has its own webpage (just another way to make money), allowing access to last meals lists as well as selling its own branded goods such as hats and shirts.

In this instance, food is served to make the death penalty look gentler than it actually is (Judge Joha Kiegler). For some inmates, it has the power to allow them to look forward to something on their day of death. An ex convict who now cooks Last Meals for death row inmates said in the documentary Last Supper (2005), “Many prisoners ordered food that they had eaten as children. … Food can take you back to a better time in your life”

This brought me to the significance of memory and the memories we have of food. From here I began to create my story.

See what some inmates have previously requested, and what they did with it here.

More questions to think about…

Right before you die your whole life flashes in front of you, is it true? Do these individuals try to recall their entire lives in the last hours?

Final meal takes them back to simple things and simple lives, offers peace and comfort. But for my character all of it is not so sweet in his mind.  He doesn’t take the steak because he doesn’t want to be reminded of his father but can’t help but think about him at the end of his life.

Why do people who have admitted to being guilty tend to order more food before being put to death?  What is the reasoning?


Bigert (2016) Last supper, 58 min, 16mm, DV, 2005, 1 channel projection. Available at: (Accessed: 3 November 2016). (2015) Top 10 food preparation scenes in movies. Available at: (Accessed: 3 November 2016).

Wansink, B. and Cornell (2016) Last meal. Available at: (Accessed: 3 November 2016).
Turvill, W. (2014) Guilty prisoners on death row are more likely to have a last meal. Available at: (Accessed: 3 November 2016).





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