Thinly sliced: USDA has spent $360 million in taxpayer money on building prisons in rural communities

This is the web version of a list we publish twice-weekly in our newsletter. It comprises the most noteworthy food stories of the moment, selected by our editors. Get it first here.

High roller. Thanks to a tweet from Vice editor Ryan Bassil, an image is circulating of Justin Bieber eating a burrito. His technique is, to put it mildly, not good. The Biebs can be seen cradling his burrito in both palms and biting directly into its tender middle, the way a vulture tears into a carcass. The internet isn’t sure what to do with this information. Is it fake news? A Canadian thing? Is he trolling, deliberately breaching etiquette in the most profane way possible? Or is it merely a sad commentary on the wages of child fame: Grow up in the spotlight, and no one teaches you how to eat a damn burrito. Right?

Purple reign. Forests of kelp—a crucial food and habitat in marine ecosystems—are being depleted en masse by a proliferation of purple urchin along the California coast, Kendra Pierre-Louis reports for The New York Times. As a result, organisms that depend on kelp are dying off at startling rates, including abalone, a delicacy that many coastal tourist destinations rely on. Purple urchin thrive in warmer waters, so human-made global warming is particularly delightful to them. For the rest of us—from eaters to environmentalists to commercial divers to starfish—this is less than tasty news.

En fuego. “The first time I tried a Flamin’ Hot Cheeto, I was thrown into a coughing fit, reeling from its unexpected dustiness and spice. Then I stuck my whole hand in the bag and put a fistful in my mouth.” A writer for Popula ponders the enduring appeal of the snack as it migrates from border towns to haute cuisine pop-ups.

Behind bars. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) been financing jail construction in rural communities—to tune of $360 million since the mid-90s. The Vera Institute of Justice, a think tank focused on the justice system, reports that the jails are funded under a program designed to support “community facilities” (think hospitals and fire stations). Two recent loan recipients—one in Florida and one in New York—were thrown into financial chaos after the IRS flagged them for using tax-exempt bonds to fund their jails (meaning investors might have to pay back taxes). Yet it was after those rulings that USDA pitched in with money for the Florida facility. “The loan from the USDA would bail out the jail by repaying the investors, while taxpayers continue to bear its costs,” Jack Norton and Jacob Kang-Brown write. That Florida facility is still open—and it’s currently doing double duty as an ICE detention center.

RIP. Dorcas Reilly, inventor of the green bean casserole someone in your family always brings to Thanksgiving (is it you?), has died at the age of 92, The Washington Post reports. During the recipe’s illustrious 60 years, it earned itself a spot in the National Inventors Hall of Fame, alongside Thomas Edison’s light bulb. And with only six ingredients! Reilly may have departed for the great kitchen in the sky, but in her words, may we all “enjoy green bean casserole forever.”

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