Amy B. Smoyer, PhD

Incarcerated Lives, Health & Social Work

Cafeteria, Commissary & Cooking

Beginning in 2009, Amy has conducted a series of studies about people's experiences with food while incarcerated. The first project, that has resulted in six peer-reviewed publications, was her dissertation, funded by a Doctoral Student Research Grant from the City University of New York.  This project involved collecting and analyzing the narratives of formerly incarcerated women in New Haven about their experiences with food and eating at the York Correctional Institute, the only correctional facility for women in the state of Connecticut.  Project findings describe how women use prison food to construct identity and relationships while incarcerated.  The data also raise questions  about the short and long-term consequences of prison food on health outcomes.

Related Publications

  • Smoyer, A.B. & Lopes, G. (2016). Hungry on the inside: Food as concrete and symbolic punishment in a women’s prison.  Punishment & Society. doi:10.1177/1462474516665605

  • Smoyer, A.B. (2016).  Mapping prison foodways.  In C. Reeves (Ed.), Experiencing Imprisonment: Research on the Experience of Living and Working in Carceral Institutions (pp. 96-111). Oxford, UK: Routledge

  • Smoyer, A. B. (2016, January 25). Nourish:  Thinking about Food in Prison.  Penal Reform International.  Guest blog. Available on-line at:

  • Smoyer, A.B. (2015).  It’s the Black girls that have the most’:  Foodways narratives and the construction of race in a women’s prison. Food & Foodways. 23, 273-285. doi: 10.1080/07409710.2015.1102480

  •  Smoyer, A. B. (2015). Making Fatty Girl cakes: Food and resistance in a women’s prison.  The Prison Journal, 1-19. doi: 10.1177/0032885515596520

  • Smoyer, A.B. (2015). Feeding relationships:  Food and social networks in a women’s prison.  Affilia: Journal of Women and Social Work, 30(1), 26-39. doi: 10.1177/0886109914537490

  • Smoyer, A.B. (2014). Good & Healthy:  Foodways and construction of identity in a women’s prison. The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, 53 (5), 525-541.  doi: 10.1111/hojo.12097


  • Smoyer, A.B. and Blankenship, K.M.  (2014). Dealing Food: Female drug users’ narratives about food in a prison place and implications for their health. International Journal of Drug Policy, 25, 562-568.  doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2013.10.013