An Oshawa judge has ruled that seven inmates being tried on drug conspiracy charges will have to be given more food during the day while they're in court.

The decision came after defence lawyers argued their clients have a hard time staying alert during proceedings because of a slimmed down prisoner menu that Durham Regional Police implemented this past summer.

Detainees usually get a full breakfast at around 5 a.m. and then dinner at 7 p.m. Inmates used to get a sandwich and a pop halfway during the day but now all they get is a granola bar and a juice box.

"It's pretty bad when you have to starve and go to court," one prisoner told CTV Toronto as he was being hauled away.

The prisoners are held in a provincial jail and have their cases tried in provincial court but security is handled by Durham police. Durham police are expected to feed the inmates but recently, their food budget has dropped from $3 to $1 per person.

Defence lawyers say prisoners need to concentrate on their case when they go to court but that becomes hard to do when their stomachs are growling.

Lawyers have taken to asking for court delays until their clients are properly fed.

"You can't order either one of the parties to provide food but you can halt the proceedings until food is provided," said defence lawyer Daniel Brown.

Durham police officials say the prisoners' budget was cutting into their operation.

"Bear in mind, (the) $90,000 we spent on lunches last year, that's one policeman on the street," Supt. Michael Ennis told CTV Toronto in September.

Durham police argue the lunch tab should be the responsibility of the corrections ministry, not them.

Officials say the seven inmates who were granted a larger lunch menu have been segregated because of fears the decision would cause riots by other prisoners who were not granted the same consideration.

With a report from CTV Toronto's Austin Delaney