PHOENIX - Authorities say several inmates at a Maricopa County jail are on a hunger strike, protesting the new menu.
According to the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, the pre-trial female inmates at the Estrella Jail started the protest on Monday.
It apparently began with seven inmates who complained about the new vegetarian, soy-based menu instituted by Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Arpaio said the women who are complaining are incarcerated in the maximum security pod for serious crimes.
He said everyone in the jail gets the same food.
For "brunch" they get a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and for dinner a hot meal that includes a vegetable, soy protein and milk. Arpaio said some of those protesting are continuing to eat the sandwiches and just refusing to eat the hot meal.
Arpaio says while it's not about money, the department will save about $570,000 with the new diet which he says meets all dietary regulations.
And when asked about how he would respond to the complaints, Arpaio pointed out those less fortunate.
"Here they are complaining about about 2,600 calories a day and we have veterans, homeless people on the streets begging or starving," Arpaio said. "They haven't even committed a crime, now we've got people committing crimes in jail complaining about the menu."
Arpaio added, "They ought to shut up and eat what they have. They happen to be in jail and I happen to be the sheriff and I'm the chief chef, too. I decide what they eat."