Ron Freeman, creator of Mama Pat’s Foods is creating healthier ramen options after his incarceration led him to reflect on ramen’s nutritional content and its market value for prisoners.
Before Freeman’s arrest and subsequent incarceration due to a drug bust, he ran a hot dog cart in Los Angeles. While feeding nearby patrons in the Gardena neighborhood in southwest Los Angeles, a well-known drug dealer threw one gram of crack cocaine in Freeman’s cart and it landed him in prison when he refused to snitch.
During his incarceration, Freeman rejected inedible cafeteria meals and used his commissary to purchase ramen. Ramen, a commodity in prison, is treated as currency. “In the free world, people judge your status by the vehicle you drive, or the clothes you wear, or the neighborhood you live in. In prison, it’s all about your commissary” Freeman said in an interview with Vice.
Ramen is so popular, it’s surpassed cigarettes as the most popular form of currency in prisons according to a study from Michael Gibson Light. While prisoners use ramen as money, the nutritional value isn’t great for prisoners’ health. The sodium packed meal can exacerbate health issues like high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease, which prisoners deal with at higher rates than the general population.
Enter, Mama Pat’s Foods. Freeman’s low-sodium ramen uses vegetable salt, a substitute that’s made with herbs. His ramen uses a combination of spices to ensure his product isn’t bland. The available flavors are seafood gumbo, chicken taco, chicken fajita and lamb stew for Muslim inmates.
After years of hard work fine-tuning his product by visiting correctional food shows, ingredient shows and meeting with manufacturers, Freeman’s ramen was ready for purchase. Freeman and Dave Taylor, his business partner, hope Mama Pat’s will replace the traditional ramen selection and the plan is to sell the ramen for 49 to 79 cents a packet.
You can follow Freeman’s ramen journey on Instagram.