Prisoners at British Columbia jails get served a wide variety of different food options while they’re kept in police custody.
After hearing a rumbling about some people being fed food from one very specific fast-food chain, Glacier Media decided to investigate.
From frozen entrees to burritos to meat pies — we’ve reached out to every municipal police department and RCMP detachments in B.C. to find out what they’re serving up to their “clients.”
Many responded with full menus, including dietary restrictions.
There are at least three locations — Port Moody Police Department, Saanich Police Department and West Vancouver Police Department — that serve McDonald’s to their prisoners.
Abbotsford Police Department
When arrested and kept in police custody in Abbotsford, people are given food from Sysco Canada.
Sgt. Paul Walker says there are two options for food when it comes to dinner and lunch.
Breakfast is always waffles. Dinner and lunch is either samosas or burritos (chicken or beef). Extra items include juice and cookies, but it’s not clear what type of cookies.
Central Saanich Police Service
Const. Tristan Gentile says at Central Saanich, prisoners have a variety of options.
“For after-hours, we have some frozen meals, such as waffles or burritos, with a vegetarian option,” he says.
If store hours permit, they will also purchase a fresh sandwich of choice and a cold drink from their local grocery store deli.
"We also work around dietary needs and restrictions,” says Gentile.
Delta Police Department
Prisoners are transported to Surrey cells; see Surrey RCMP.
Many RCMP detachments have their food supply chosen by the city as it is a city “expense.”
Kristen Rodrigue, communications supervisor at the City of Kamloops, took on Glacier Media's request and was able to check with the community services division that manages the cell block. It has a "high-level overview" of the meals.
In Kamloops cells, clients receive pre-prepared meals.
"We have a variety of meal options that are designed to accommodate dietary restrictions (i.e. diabetic needs) and religious restrictions. Depending on the length of stay, there are restaurant options as well,” says Rodrigue.
Const. Mike Della-Paolera, media relations officer at Kelowna RCMP, gave a thorough explanation of what they offer to prisoners.
"Here in Kelowna, we provide food from the Safeway deli department,” he says.
This can include sandwiches or hot meals like chicken fingers and fries or Chinese food.
For breakfast, they have cereal bars, hard-boiled eggs and juice or coffee.
"Coffee is offered twice a day,” says Della-Paolera.
"We will provide snacks like fresh fruit, cereal bars or cookies for some who missed the scheduled meal times and are hungry when they come into our facility."
He adds that it's unusual to have a prisoner stay longer than 24 hours. If that does happen, Mounties will order a hot meal for them.
"If we have any extra when a prisoner is being released directly from our cells, and if they ask, we will ensure they have a small brown bag lunch to take with them,” he says.
Nelson Police Department
Did not respond to Glacier Media's request.
New Westminster Police Department
A crowd favourite comes from New Westminster Police, which offers a unique option to their prisoners.
Hailey Finnigan, strategic communications coordinator, says the food offered to the people staying in New Westminster Police Department cells includes: meat pies, waffles, juice, and Oreo cookies.
"These offerings have been in place as long as anyone working here can remember,” she says.
And people are not mad about it.
"I’ve been told that we’ve received no complaints about the meat pies specifically,” she says. "In fact, sometimes people who have had the meat pie will at a later date come to our front counter asking if they can have another one.”
Port Moody Police Department
When the Port Moody Police Department has prisoners in custody they are fed meals from McDonald's.
"The main reason for this is proximity to a nearby McDonalds restaurant that we happen to share a property line with,” says Const. Sam Zacharias, media relations officer.
Cpl. Ian Henderson, media relations officer with Richmond RCMP, tells Glacier Media their location has many great food options.
"The City of Richmond is host to some of the world’s most amazing food, with internationally renowned chefs and restaurants. But if you are looking for a culinary treat, don’t come to the Richmond RCMP cellblock,” he says.
They supply just the basics: white or whole wheat bread, margarine, coffee whitener and sweetener. Meals include canned ravioli, chicken or vegetable soup, chicken or vegetable instant noodles, frozen meat pies, and sliced cheese.
Drinks include coffee, tea, hot chocolate, apple and orange juice, milk and water
“Enough to get you through a one- or two-night stay. Perhaps three nights if you are unlucky enough to be arrested at the start of a long weekend,” says Henderson.
People are not held longer than that at their facility.
"We will do our best to accommodate nutritional limitations due to medical necessity or cultural practice,” says Henderson.
Saanich Police Department
If arrested and put into police custody in Saanich, you will also receive McDonald’s for all three meals.
Const. Markus Anastasiades says for breakfast, prisoners get a sausage McMuffin extra value meal (hashbrown and a coffee) or an egg McMuffin extra value meal (hashbrown and a coffee), which is a vegetarian option.
Lunch and dinner options include the full-meal deal with McPicks McDouble Meal (fries and a soft drink) or an egg BLT McMuffin extra value meal (fries and a soft drink).
"Our building, specifically our cell area, does not have the physical space to store or prepare food,” says Anastasiades. "We also have Skip the Dishes deliver instead of police officers picking up the meals, as was the practice up until the end of 2021."
Food restrictions or allergies are accommodated on a case-by-case basis.
Sidney North Saanich RCMP
Frozen entree dinners or pasta is what prisoners get served while in custody at the Sidney North Saanich RCMP detachment.
"All meals are prepared in-house by our commissionaire guards,” says Cpl. Andres Flores Sanchez.
There is a "range of meals," including waffles with syrup, muffins, toast with butter and jam, and pasta. To drink, they serve water, coffee, tea and juice.
"We also keep a vegetarian and gluten-free option if requested by the client,” he says.
Stl'atl'imx Tribal Police Services
According to Sgt. Michael Leo, there are no cells so prisoners are transported to Whistler RCMP.
The Surrey RCMP detachment happens to be next door to the Surrey Pretrial Services Centre. All the meals given to people in custody come from the kitchen at the centre.
Media relations officer Cpl. Vanessa Munn says the prisoner food is outsourced to the kitchen.
"The meals vary depending on the prisoner's dietary needs like kosher, vegan or halal,” she says.
People get two sandwiches, a cookie or muffin, fruit and juice.
Vancouver Police Department
"I’m sorry, but we won’t be able to respond at this time,” the VPD said in an email to Glacier Media.
Victoria Police Department
Const. Cam MacIntyre says the department’s meals come from a local restaurant, not one that is fast food.
A typical meal for a person in our custody is a sandwich, fruit, muffin, and juice or water.
"We accommodate those who are gluten-free or vegetarian,” he says.
West Shore RCMP
People in custody while at the West Shore RCMP detachment will be eating food from the Thrifty Foods grocery store.
"This has been going on for years and the reason is it allows for the purchase of healthier options,” says Const. Meghan Groulx.
Some of the meals include stews, pasta, soups, chicken fingers, vegetarian options, muffins and fruit cups.
West Vancouver Police Department
The third location to confirm they serve McDonald’s to people in custody is West Vancouver.
Const. Nicole Braithwaite confirmed the department serves grub from the golden arches, but did not specify which options.