Food for Persons - Wards of State:
Expended 2009: $106,601,431
Estimated 2010: $100,702,356
Budgeted 2011: $92,236,867
(Data from p. 552 of this enormous pdf)If I'm reading these documents correctly, the 2011 "budgeted" amount (the current fiscal year) is the figure allocated after the agency was required to reduce its budget by state leadership last fall. In that preemptory move, TDCJ absorbed 15% of all state agency budget cuts totaling $75 million, and prisoners' food bill was apparently one source of savings. Alternatively, maybe the food money went to pay for un-budgeted security upgrades, drug testing of staff, or some of the other anti-contraband initiatives that seem to be implemented spontaneously every few months in reaction to each new crisis or negative revelation.
Texas prisons grow much of their own food, of course, but I'm aware of no upsurge in agricultural production that would explain this precipitous drop.
Whatever the case, for the upcoming biennium (2012-13), TDCJ requested a $5 million increase to $97.3 million per year to feed prisoners, but HB 1 gave them the same amount budgeted for 2011, and the Senate budget would spend just a few hundred thousand dollars more. Meanwhile, food costs are rising, so that leaves reduced quantity or quality as the only real ways to save money on that line item - unless, of course, the state decides to simply reduce the total number of people it's feeding three times per day.