Instant ramen has always been prized among college students—but a new study reveals that it’s also popular among U.S. inmates.
In fact, The Guardian US reports, the freeze-dried noodles are actually surpassing other popular money substitutes like tobacco，stamps and envelopes as the underground prison currency.
Michael Gibson-Light, a doctoral candidate at the University of Arizona School of Sociology, researched the report, which was published by the American Sociological Association on August 22.
Gibson-Light spent a year interviewing around 60 male inmates and staff members at an anonymous state-run prison. While observing how prisoners dealt with service cutbacks, he noticed that they traded instant ramen packets for food, clothing, toiletries, and services. They even gambled with the noodles during card games.
"Prisoners are so unhappy with the quality and quantity of prison food that they receive that they have begun relying on ramen noodles— a cheap, durable food product—as a form of money in the underground economy," Gibson-Light concluded in a news release. "Because it is cheap, tasty, and rich in calories, ramen has become so valuable that it is used to exchange for other goods."
Inmates used two packs of 59-cent ramen to buy a $11 sweatshirt, or five cigarettes worth $2. Men were sometimes even killed after they purchased ramen from illegal inmate stores on credit and were unable to repay their debts, inmates told Gibson-Light.