This guide was created using Directive #4911 

Prohibited Items/Ingredients

  • Alcohol
  • Poppy seeds
  • Dry fruit (ex: trail-mix with raisins in it)
  • Hot/spicy peppers
  • Frozen foods (refrigerated foods are allowed)
  • Homemade foods
  • Restaurant, deli, bakery foods
  • Root vegetables except carrots and beets
  • Foods that require cooking before consumption, unless the only cooking required is microwaving (ex: a bag of uncooked rice would not be allowable, but a pouch of microwavable rice, such as “Ben’s Original Ready Rice” would be)

Packaging Specifics

  • Avoid glass containers
  • All items must be commercially packaged in airtight hermetically sealed containers impervious to external influence (e.g., sealed cans, heat-sealed plastic bags, vacuum-sealed pouches, vacuum-sealed plastic jars, glue sealed paper or cardboard boxes with the inside product being hermetically sealed, etc.)
  • Containers with paper, plastic, or foil seals are not allowed (ex: Pringles chips, coffee creamer with a plastic seal)
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables are an exception - they do not need to be in sealed containers

Information About Specific Foods

Beverages/Liquid: including concentrates, must be in cans, pouches or boxes only; max. size 32 oz. each; note: some facilities may not allow any liquids in a can or box

Bread: must be "double-bagged/wrapped" - when you open the bread bag, the slices should be also sealed within a plastic wrapping

Breakfast Cereal: not allowed (ex: Cheerios, Chex)

Butter/Margarine: not allowed

Canned Food: maximum size 16 oz each; must not require cooking (per manufacturer's label), but microwaving is allowed

Candy: must be fully sealed (ex: buy a sealed bag containing individually sealed “fun size” candy)

Cheese: sliced or chunk allowed, commercially sealed; do not purchase cheese that the grocery store cuts and wraps in-house

Chocolate: avoid anything with “chocolate liquor” as an ingredient

Coffee: sealed ground coffee is allowed; cans of pre-made coffee (ex: cold brew) are not permitted in some facilities

Condiments: 16 oz maximum; no hot sauce

Dried Coffee Cream: 16 oz maximum

Eggs: fresh not allowed, powdered eggs are allowed (ex: OvaEasy)

Fruit: avoid dried fruit (see note below on raisins); fresh fruit is allowed

Granola/Cereal Bars: cereal or nut bars are allowed (ex: KIND, Nutrigrain - avoid those with dried fruit ingredients); protein bars (ex: Quest, Pure Protein) are not allowed; avoid anything that specifically advertises the word “protein” on the box (ex: KIND Protein bars)

Herbs (fresh): not allowed

Meat: must be ready to eat, not raw (ex: pre-cooked in a can or refrigerated, dry, smoked, cured, cold cuts); cold cuts need to be sealed by manufacturer, not wrapped at a grocery deli counter

Milk: in a can (condensed, coconut) is okay at most facilities but not Fishkill

Maple Syrup/Jam/Honey: not allowed

Nuts: should not have shells

Oatmeal: allowed in most facilities - avoid those with dried fruit mixed in

Oil: not allowed

Pastry/Bakery Items: have to be commercially sealed, not in a bag from your local bakery

Protein Powder: not allowed

Raisins: maximum 2 oz per package (avoid buying granola bars, trail mix, etc that includes raisins as an ingredient)

Rice/Pasta: microwavable/steam bags allowed; those requiring cooking on the stovetop are not allowed, but can be purchased through the commissary in some facilities

Seafood: it must be ready to eat (cooked, cured, smoked); no shells

Snacks: potato chips, pretzels, crackers, cookies, and other similar items (or combinations of approved food items) are allowed

Soup: must be in a can, not a box; no powdered soup mixes

Tea: herbal and flavored tea allowed; no loose tea; no tea labeled as being for any treatment or cure, "for medicinal purposes" or "as a dietary supplement," etc. is allowed

Vegetables: fresh, that do not require cooking (except in facilities that allow cooking); no root vegetables except carrots and beets (no potatoes, sweet potatoes, rutabaga, etc.); no corn

Yogurt: not allowed

Commissary Food

When putting together a food package, you may want to consider what is available in the commissary - the prison “store” where individuals can make purchases if they have funds available. Items available in the commissary may vary slightly based on the facility. You will notice the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables, making those a great item to prioritize for food packages, if the individual you’re making the package for is interested!

Vegetables: kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, chili w/ beans, corn, instant mashed potatoes, crushed tomatoes, fresh onions, fresh garlic, pickles, green olives

Fruit: fruit cup

Beverages: juice (grapefruit, orange, cranberry, lemon), Maxwell House coffee, Taster's Choice instant coffee, decaf coffee, hot cocoa, Hawaiian Punch mix, ice tea mix, tang mix, peach drink mix, tea bags, herbal tea, Gatorade, water, Pepsi/Diet Pepsi, ginger ale, Mountain Dew, and other assorted sodas

Seasonings/Sauces: mayo, BBQ sauce, mustard, ketchup, relish, hot sauce, soy sauce, salad dressing (ranch, Italian), salsa squeeze, garlic powder, adobo, sazon, oregano, Mrs. Dash blend, sea salt, flour, tomato sauce, tomato paste, margarine

Meat/Fish: chicken franks, Vienna chicken sausage, chicken breast pouch, hot & spicy wings, fried chicken, pepperoni, sliced pastrami, sliced turkey, spam singles, roast beef pouch, salami sausage, turkey sausage, jac mack, clams, tuna, fish steaks in hot sauce, pink salmon, oysters, octopus

Pasta/Rice: elbow macaroni, mac & cheese, rice, spaghetti, ziti, boil in bag rice, chicken rice a roni mix

Breakfast Foods: honey, honey nut cereal, berry krunch cereal, fruit loop cereal, generic syrup, pancake mix, quick oats, oatmeal variety pack, grits, strawberry toaster pastry, egg substitute

Sugar: white granulated sugar, light brown sugar, artificial sweetener

Soup: vegetable cup soup, chicken noodle soup, shrimp soup

Snacks: white cheddar popcorn, pretzels, sour cream and onion chips, shabang chips, nachos, hot pork rinds, ripple potato chips, cheese puffs, whole enchilada mix, honey roasted peanuts, trail mix, cheese crackers, saltines, Keebler snack crackers, honey graham crackers

Spreads: grape jelly, marshmallow creme, peanut butter

Dairy Products: powder creamer, french vanilla creamer, sweet condensed milk, coconut milk powder, powder milk, cream cheese, grated cheese, sliced American cheese, shredded mozzarella cheese, Velveeta cheese

Bakery Products: cosmic brownies, assorted cheese danish, creme cookies, chocolate chip cookies, cream-filled cupcakes, swiss rolls, iced oatmeal cookies, oatmeal cream pies, zebra cakes, honey buns, assorted mini donuts, apple Nutri-Grain cereal bars, assorted fruit pies, hoagie rolls, wheat bread, plain bagel, cinnamon bagel, flour tortillas

Ice Cream: Breyer’s Vanilla, Breyer’s Strawberry, Breyer’s Butter Pecan, Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Money, Ben & Jerry’s Cookie Dough, Perry Nutty Cone

Candy: Milky Way, Butterfinger, M&M Peanut, Snickers, Now & Later, sour balls, peppermints, Halls Mentho-Lyptus