So a character has apparently said and/or done something to anger an authority figure. What's the best course of action to take? Why, punish them by depriving them of either breakfast, lunch, dinner, or all three meals together, of course!
Withholding food is also used by villains to punish prisoners who are uncooperative, when the prisoners don't go for I'm Not Hungry first. (The exact opposite punishment is Force Feeding.) And, of course, servants may be threatened with this by their masters in order to keep them in line.
In a few instances, either the character will try to sneak some food when they think no one is looking, or another character will try to sneak them food.
One of the earliest examples of this trope is the Greek myth of Tantalos, making this Older Than Feudalism. After feeling jilted by the gods, Tantalus invited them over for a meal at his palace, where he fed his own children to them as revenge. Disgusted, the gods sent him to eternal punishment in the underworld. He would stand in a pool of water with a grape vine overhead — but whenever he tried to drink or eat, the water and grapes would move beyond his reach, making him suffer eternal of thirst and hunger (hence, the word "tantalize").
Compare the Lysistrata Gambit, which is the denial of something else that people hunger for.
Sometimes done if a character is enduring Cinderella Circumstances. Also see Lost Food Grievance for when a character reacts poorly to this.
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Anime & Manga
In Soul Eater, Crona was denied food from Medusa after refusing to kill three rabbits, in different ways. This continues over and over until he/she finally agrees to it.
In Toriko, the three Great Gourmet Prisons hold the most ruthless and destructive criminals sentenced for life and beasts deemed too dangerous for the human world. Honey Prison is divided up into eight levels of food-themed torture. Inmates of the third level and beyond it are denied any food. Beyond the fourth level they no longer receive water.
Zero no Tsukaima: Louise punished her familiar Saito like this whenever he roused her temper, which was often, and also threatened to take away his meals as a way to prevent him from disobeying her orders.
In One Piece, the Navy (and Koby, who had just been accepted as a recruit), salute Luffy and Zoro as they sail off. One of them decides, "As punishment, no dinner for a week!" because they allowed pirates to escape.
Earlier, Zoro agreed to the terms Helmeppo set that he would starve for a month to protect a little girl.
Subverted in Naruto, in which Kakashi holds a "bell test" for the three members of his team, with the one who doesn't get a bell being tied to the stump, denied lunch, and sent back to the academy. The trick is to work together in spite of the circumstances, but none of the three realize this, and Naruto tries to cheat, but gets tied to the stump for trying this. Kakashi then tells them that he'll give them another chance if Sakura and Sasuke don't feed Naruto, but when they do, he reveals that this test shows that the rules are less important than teamwork, and passes all three.
Madame St. Paul, Picolet Chardin III'sinstructor in Ranma 1/2, forbids Ranma from eating "ungracefully" —that is, using her hands. The Chardin Family school of Martial Arts Dining thinks it demeaning to a)use your hands to eat, and b) to be seen eating, hence why they use their chameleon-like tongues to eat food in the blink of an eye. If Ranma can't do that, then she isn't allowed to eat anything until she learns. Then Ranma undergoes a severe training regimen, and turns down Akane's offers for food on the grounds that it would be admitting defeat. She nearly starves to death.
In Gakuen Alice, no-star students (who are generally misbehaved) are given a measly portion of food, where 3-star students are treated to an extravagant feast.
In Mirai Nikki Yuno had control-freak parents who measured everything she did from how many hours she got to sleep to how many calories she had a day. They also kept her in a cage and starved her in an effort to raise her to be a model person.
Taken to a new level in Speed Grapher, where Kagura Tennozou goes to school with empty lunch boxes thanks to her abusive mother Shinsen, and collapses of hunger at least once.
Austria of Axis Powers Hetalia was a very strict father figure towards Chibitalia. He stepped on him, threw him in a shed, and denied him food, as well as possibly other punishments.
Occurs in Kaze to Ki no Uta after a teacher discovers students having a fight and making a mess in a room.
In Yumeria, Tomokazu is denied dinner after making Mone cry, even though he apologized.
In Nichijou, Nano often threatens this to the professor, a very young child who created her, due to her experiments or attempts to blame their talking cat, Sakamoto. It doesn't work very well however, as Nano either forgets about the punishment, or simply forgives her.
In Sekirei, Miya often threatens to do this to Seo, especially if he refuses to help the main characters. She will also sometimes use this threat on Matsu when the latter is getting a little too friendly with Minato, and by extension, Minato, even though he's completely innocent in those cases.
In episode 10 of Season 2's Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, Miu does technically feed Kenichi when Renka shows up at the dojo. However, she gives him a very tiny fish compared to the giant ones the other characters received, and when he asks for seconds on rice, Miu gives him exactly one grain of rice. Renka offering to feed him her share of food only serves to frustrate Miu, while Kenichi's masters giggle at his misfortune with the two ladies.
In Bleach, Kukaku gives Ichigo and Ganju this punishment in episode 24.
A slight variation of this trope occurs in episode 6 of Mikakunin de Shinkoukei. After Mashiro teases her future sister-in-law Kobeni about her brother (and Kobeni's fiance) Hakuya, the latter decides that dinner that night would consist of all the foods the former hates, such as natto, or sticky beans. Since Kobeni is the only person in their house that can cook, Mashiro immediately apologizes to her.
In one Batman flashback to before the death of the Waynes, they send Bruce to bed without supper for reading a comic book. Alfred secretly brings a tray of food to the boy ... just slightly ahead of Thomas Wayne, who was doing the same thing.
Inverted in a MAD parody of The Shining. Dinny's father chases him down with an axe at the climax, telling him that he's been a naughty boy. Dinny asks him why he doesn't send him to bed without supper like other fathers do, and the father points out that with the fact that frozen food is the only thing to eat at the hotel, that would be a reward.
In Neil Gaiman's 1602, this is a punishment Doom uses to train his prisoners out of bad behavior.
In Kyon Big Damn Hero, Kyon gets no lunch from his parents when he's grounded for fighting at school. The SOS Brigade gives him food anyway.
Celebony's "A Hero" takes this trope Up to Eleven. The Dursleys move beyond denying Harry occasional meals to literally starving him.
Again, in chapter 57 of Gensokyo 20XX, because of what Suika did, which was hurling food onto the floor and into the wall, Koishi said, "Great, now we're not going to get food tomorrow." and it turns out she was right, they didn't get any food next day afterwards.
In "Every Good Fairytale", Professor Moriarty restrains his own plasmavore agent (plasmavores being vampire-like creatures from Doctor Who who live by feeding off of blood) when she grows slightly rebellious. He has her locked in a cell and kept away from all living contact, thereby denying her her food source in order to punish her and weaken her into obedience once more.
Subverted when he makes this offer to a captive Sherlock Holmes: no more food and water (and no more torture), and Holmes will be allowed to die in peace. Holmes doesn't accept because of what Moriarty wants out of him for that Cruel Mercy.
Home Alone: Kevin gets angry at his brother Buzz and shoves him into some drinks which spill over, creating a mess in the kitchen. Chaos thus ensues among the family, and everyone directs their anger towards Kevin. As a result, Kevin's mother makes him sleep in the attic (Kevin is scared of the attic) without dinner.
In The Worst Witch TV film adaptation, Miss Cackle sends Mildred straight to bed without supper after wrecking the broomstick display. She isn't sadistic, though; in fact, earlier in the film when Mildred is sent to her office, she doesn't act nasty at all.
In Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon, the pastor punishes two of his children by denying food to the whole family - that is, the other children, the mother and himself.
Ken Watanabe in Letters from Iwo Jima does this as an intervention - the culprits were being whipped at the time.
In Nanny McPhee, the father tries this on his unruly children at the very beginning. It doesn't work — the kids simply sneak down to the kitchen for a raid.
In Antz, Azteca is denied her rations for a day after standing up to the foreman on behalf of her new co-worker, Weaver.
In The Saint, as punishment for Simon's refusing to answer to the religiously themed name arbitrarily given to him by the priests at his orphanage (even when whipped), not only was he not given dinner, every other boy in the orphanage wasn't given dinner as well. Simon waited until the priests left, picked the lock to the pantry, and then the boys helped themselves.
In The Sixth Sense, Cole is sent away from the table after barely touching his dinner. He would not confess to his mother that he took her brooch. He was telling the truth though, it was a ghost that kept stealing it.
In The King's Speech, Bertie mentions that his first nanny favoured his brother over him. While she dressed and treated his brother well, she would pinch Bertie before presenting him to their parents, then deny him food to "punish" him for crying. According to some sources, this is an example of Historical Villain Upgrade; among other things, Bertie was anorexic.
In A Few Good Men, it is mentioned at one point that Lt. Kendrick had placed a misbehaving Marine Private on "barracks restriction" where he was confined to his barracks and given nothing but water and vitamin supplements for a week.
In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy suggests that she be sent to bed without supper for letting Toto go into Miss Gulch's garden rather than have Toto be put down.
Night of the Hunter - Harry Palmer, recently a widower after murdering his bride, has meals given to him by sympathetic townsfolk (who think she's run off on him) - which he withholds from his stepchildren to get them to tell where their late father's stolen money is hidden.
In Sister Act, Dolores is disgusted by the bowl of gruel she is given as her first meal in the convent. The Reverend Mother responds by denying her any meals for a few days, and she resorts to stealing a tomato from the garden.
In this case, the part about not getting enough food is not intended as a punishment, it's just the way the orphanarium is run. The punishment is that Oliver is sold into what amounts to slavery (at least, that's the Workhouse Master's intent; it doesn't work out quite that badly for him).
In the beginning of Law Of The Wolf Tower, the first book in The Claidi Journals series by Tanith Lee, Claidi works at a place called House as a servant for Lady Jade Leaf, who punishes Claidi and her fellow maids in this way even for the most miniscule things.
The students at Lowood in Jane Eyre are denied their meals if they should break the school rules. For a while, they are given meager portions of food as well before the school changes for the better.
Jane herself was locked in a bedroom for a while without food when she stood up to her bullying cousin.
In Changes For Samantha, a book from the American Girls Collection, Samantha's friend Nellie is regularly punished by the cold headmistress and given little to no food during her stay at Coldrock House, an Orphanage of Fear.
In the book Emily of New Moon, by Lucy Maud Montgomery, the titular Emily is punished this way on occasion by her Aunt Elizabeth.
Often done to Cinderella before she went off with the prince to live in his castle. Sometimes she is merely threatened it if she does not finish her work.
Another retelling of Cinderella is a book called Just Ella, in which Ella's stepmother deprives her of her meals. In the beginning at least, and she doesn't actually marry the prince considering how he turned out to be Prince Charmless.
In Ella Enchanted, after Ella talks back to her teacher Sewing Mistress, the lady punishes Ella by making her skip both dinner that night and breakfast the next morning. Made even worse by the fact that Hattie, who is traveling with Ella in the coach to finishing school, commands Ella to not eat; by the time they actually get to the school, Ella hasn't eaten for days.
In A Little Princess in one scene the teacher bans both Sara and the girl she uses as a slave from having any meals the following day after they let the other girls into their bedroom (they are forbidden from doing so)
During her time as a servant, Sara was ordered to go days without food. Frequently too.
"I will attend to you tomorrow. You shall have neither breakfast, dinner, nor supper!"
"I have not had either dinner or supper today, Miss Minchin," said Sara, rather faintly.
"Then all the better. You will have something to remember."
In one of the Adventures Of The Wishing Chair stories, Mollie and Peter are both sent to bed without dinner by their mother after they vandalize the titular chair.
In Harry Potter, for most of his childhood with the Dursleys, Harry received this punishment. It's noted in Deathly Hallows that this was often to the point of near starvation.
Uncle Vernon waited until Piers was safely out of the house before starting on Harry. He was so angry he could hardly speak. He managed to say, "Go—cupboard—stay—no meals," before he collapsed into a chair, and Aunt Petunia had to run and get him a large brandy.
In Mount Vernon Love Story, Martha Washington halfheartedly tries this, sending her son to bed without dinner after he pulls a prank that has the entire neighborhood searching for him — but still leaving him an elaborate tray of bread, jam, and milk, just in case he gets too hungry. It's still a great concession for her, as she mostly lets him run wild, since his two older siblings have already died, and his younger sister is sickly. For his part, George (yes, that one) comes up to his room and asks Jacky to go ahead and punish himself, since his mother won't. Being George Washington, it works.
In The Hardy Boys novel The House on the Cliff, the smugglers who are holding the boys' dad hostage are also starving him in a vain attempt to get him to go along with their plan.
In Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt, the children's grandmother tries to invoke this when Sammy disobeys her, but Dicey points out that going to bed without dinner wouldn't be much of a punishment because he already knows what it's like to go hungry, due to having lived on the run and a tiny food budget for months prior.
In Furnace: Lockdown, the teenage inmates are denied access to the dining hall as punishment for rioting.
In Louisa May Alcott's short story The Children's Joke, the children and parents reverse roles for a day, and the son sends his father away from the table without his breakfast as a punishment for being late; it's implied that the father has punished his son in this way many times, but having it done to him makes him realize that it's a harsher consequence than he realized. His mother (the children's grandmother) slips him a muffin later, implying that she also mitigates the children's punishments in this way.
Sometimes done with hares in the Redwall series, usually for having eaten too much food in the first place. This rarely ends well. Also seen sometimes with slaves in the series.
This actually nearly got a character killed in Triss. After the hare in question (who had already been in trouble twice for eating food that belonged to other people) eats a trifle that the Dibbuns were supposed to get as a prize for winning a contest, the abbot makes him clean the abbey from top to bottom, with only lettuce and water for food. The hare then loads up a haversack full to bursting with food, and leaves. He then gets caught by the villains and has to be rescued.
In his autobiography A Child Called "It", Dave Peltzer claims his mother did this to him persistently, as arbitrary punishment for the slightest disobedience of her control freak insanity.
In All-of-a-Kind Family, Sarah refuses to eat her rice soup at lunch and as a result is denied anything else to eat for the rest of the day until she gives in and eats the soup.
In Malevil, this is the favorite punishment of the evil priest Fulbert, especially as he tricked the town into letting him watch the food supplies after the Apocalypse.
In the book Dragondrums the generally jovial and kind Masterharper Robinton denies the dying Lord Holder Meron pain medication because the man refuses to name an heir and would gladly leave the land up for grabs from his many male heirs. Robinton justifies refusing the healer near Meron because he said Robinton could do "nothing to him." And that is what Robinton gives the man.
Earlier in the same book, one of the apprentices mouths off to Menolly, a journeyman harper, who calmly reminds him that the official punishment for such an affront is three days' water rations.
In Warrior Cats, if a cat is assigned to hunt and eats his catch rather than sharing it with the kits and elders of the Clan first, he can't take anything off the fresh-kill pile for supper.
There's also the abusive foster-mother, Lizardstripe, who hates Brokenkit and is said to have deprived him of milk as punishment for even being born.
In Abomination by Robert Swindells, Martha (whose family are members of a strict religious movement) arrives home from school late after helping her new friend, Scott, who was being bullied. Even though she has a good reason for being late, her father still punishes her by sending her to her room without dinner. Later, he comes to "correct her" before locking her in her room to keep her from stealing food in the night.
Enid Blyton's many stories for children sometimes use this: authority figures like parents sometimes routinely deny a misbehaving child their dinner, sometimes combining this with locking them in their bedroom for the day or night. In the fourth Famous Five novel, "Five Go to Smuggler's Top", the Five are staying with a friend at the eerie eponymous old mansion (Timmy the dog in hiding, as he was forbidden from Smuggler's Top), and the unpleasant deaf servant Block punishes George by locking her in her room and serving her only bread and water, which she throws back in his face defiantly. He is literally deaf to any objections to the way he punishes her (except that it turns out he isn't really deaf, but pretends to be in order to overhear things not meant for him to hear). It is up to George's cousins to smuggle food in to her through the window, and much of consequence in the later parts of the plot flows from this.
Live Action TV
Sheridan in Babylon 5 was uncooperative to the interrogator. As a result, he was denied intravenous nourishment.
Dr. House's father would make him go without food if he was ever a tiny bit late for a meal when he was a kid.
Which is just one example of House's father's abusive parenting. No wonder he's so messed up.
Inverted in Battlestar Galactica, when Baltar offers Gina food, assuring her he's not going to take it away at the last second. Gina, a raped and tortured Cylon prisoner, had been refusing to eat in an effort to kill herself. Baltar realises he's got across to her when she reaches over and takes a piece of food from the plate.
This is a frequent trope found in reality shows, especially residential ones such as Big Brother.
Trope taken to the extreme in I, Claudius (BBC historical series). Mother Antonia punishes daughter Livilla this way in an early episode. In a later one, grown-up Livilla poisons her husband. Antonia finds out and locks her in a room to starve to death. Those fun-loving Romans!
A different version appears in My Wife and Kids where after the children eat a pie Michael was saving for himself. They are forced to eat nothing but pie, and their mother sneaks them celery.
An episode of Jo Frost Extreme Parenting has the titular nanny tell a mother to use this punishment when her daughter refuses to eat her dinner.
Arnold Rimmer revealed early in the series that this led to his near starvation and eventual divorce from his parents when he was a teenager.
Apparently this was among the torture techniques employed in Roman Times until Professor Bobo burned it down.
The adult leader of a child street gang in Survivors uses this tactic to keep "his" kids more productive.
In Oz, Alvarez is in solitary confinement after blinding a guard; the prison chaplain is shocked to discover the other guards have been withholding food and water from him, forcing Alvarez to drink his own urine.
Nehrus, a gluttonous goa'uld scientist comes to Earth claiming to help the tau'ri in Stargate SG-1. When he's revealed to be a traitor, he is locked up in Area 51. He asks Landry what will get him to cooperate. Landry calmly says "hunger".
On one episode of The Sopranos, A.J. keeps complaining about the breakfast Tony prepares until Tony takes it from him and dumps it down the garbage disposal, smilingly informing him "Now you got nothing."
In one episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Philip finds out that Will and Carlton were working as strippers, and as soon as they got home, this is what he has to say to them:
Philip: No dates! No charge cards! No television! No emails! No phone calls! NO FOOD!
In Orange Is The New Black, Piper is denied any cafeteria service after inadvertantly insulting the food in front of Red (who takes pride in how she runs the kitchen), and later explicitly states that she intends to starve Piper to death, even going so far as to have a vending machine unplugged while her fiance is visiting. She later does the same to Alex, as punishment for openly offering Piper food.
Later, Red is also being starved out after control of the kitchen is handed over to someone else.
On a Thursday, I start on bread and water for a while
Roger in FoxTrot got this when blamed for messing up Andy's computer (it was actually Jason and Paige's fault).
Note that Roger messes up the computer all the time; this time it was a rather spectacular accident (Diet Coke spilled into the keyboard, then an attempt to clean it up using a hairdryer).
Roger also was implied to have suffered this trope in another strip, where the kids got pancakes whereas he didn't (or, well, any breakfast). That time, however, he definitely deserved it. (Let's just say he picked a very poor gift for Valentine's Day for Andy, and that was her way of communicating it.)
This backfires in a Garfield strip. Jon threatens to send Garfield to bed without dinner because he won't eat. Garfield happily jumps into bed because the food doesn't taste good.
This has happened to Calvin a few times. On one such occasion (where he was punished for saying the food "smells like bat barf") he simply picked up the phone and ordered a pizza instead.
Bob: If he left so much as one hair on the soap, it was off to bed with no dinner. And you know what? He only went to bed hungry 20, maybe 30 times. He learned!
In a skit toward the end of Tales of Symphonia, Lloyd notes that his adoptive father, Dirk, taught him a Dwarven Vow each day, and quizzed him at dinnertime, not allowing him to eat if he got it wrong. Regal correctly notes that Lloyd's desire for food strengthened his memory, but Colette wonders if dwarven food has special memory-enhancing ingredients.
In the second Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games, both the player and their partner are denied dinner on one occasion not being able to restock the Guildmaster's supply of Perfect Apples (the only food he will eat). The only problem? They were framed. Fortunately, a few friends of the player and partner compiled parts of their dinners together so that the two got a meal the next morning. (Though you could have apples in storage)
Inverted in Banjo-Tooie. Mrs. Bottles ends up forcing Bottles to eat a heavily burnt meal after he was late for dinner, and Mrs. Bottles is implied to not believe Bottle's sound alibi of having just been resurrected from the dead until meeting Klungo and King Jingaling.
Throughout the Metroid Prime games, Space Pirate scan data reveals ration reductions are a common punishment among their ranks.
In Super Dangan Ronpa 2, Monobear uses this as the motive in Chapter 4, cutting off the students' food and water and giving them a Sadistic Choice: either someone commits a murder, or they all starve to death. It works. Gundam Tanaka kills Nekomaru Nidai in order to move the game forward, and save the other five students from starvation, knowing full well he will be executed.
A minor sidequest in Dragon Age: Origins has the Warden-to-be encounter a man imprisoned in a cage at Ostagar. He was caught trying to desert, and in addition to locking him up, the guards have denied him food. The player character has the option to charm or purchase food from the guard on duty so the man doesn't have to die with an empty stomach.
Nanase's mother denies Nanase dessert after the poor girl explodes—they were already eating dinner, so she couldn't very well tell Nanase to vomit up what she'd already ate. Her sister sneaks her some cookies.
This happens to Bart in one episode of The Simpsons when Marge decides he needs to be disciplined more, although Homer does ruin it by sneaking him some pizza. In fact, Bart immediately calls Marge's bluff when she declares the punishment, and later the lesson is just about to sink in when Homer shows up.
Also happened in Bart versus Thanksgiving when he is sent to his room without Thanksgiving dinner for destroying Lisa's centerpiece. He sneaks out and gets a meal at the homeless shelter.
Also, while technically it's a beverage and not food, in the episode where Bart (attempts to) shoplift a video game Homer proposes as one of his punishments: "No eggnog. In fact, no nog period."
On Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Bloo tries to get sent to bed without supper on purpose after finding out that Frankie is making "it", an indescribable dish he finds unappetizing.
And because Bloo is a moderate Jerkass, he Can't Get In Trouble For Nuthin' and somehow manages to get everyone in the entire house sent to their room without supper. So Frankie takes particular delight in dumping the entire bowl of "it" onto Bloo's plate, since he's the only one left who hasn't "gotten in trouble".
In "Fair Exchange", Jon punishes Garfield for gluing Odie's head to the table by sending him to bed without his pre-bedtime-post-midnight-snack-meal (he already gave him his supper, post-supper and post-post supper snacks).
In "The Multiple Choice Cartoon", John punishes Garfield for catapulting Odie into the woods by (as the audience chooses) either "A: No food for a day, B: No food for a week, or C: No food until the next time Haley's Comet cruises the galaxy". The audience chooses (like all the other answers) "C".
Hey Arnold! did this to the one character that didn't deserve it at all - Helga. One wonders how she even manages to survive by eating cereal for dinner and a complete lunch of "An individual package of crackers, moist towelettes and shaving cream", not to mention that her mom forgets to either buy food or leaves the grocery bags on the roof of the car. But in the Thanksgiving episode this trope is invoked on her when she declares that she has nothing to be thankful for while at the table.
Big Bob: "All right then, little lady. You can just park your keister upstairs until you think of something you're thankful for!"
In Family Guy Lois once ate Meg's lunch and sent her to school with an empty lunch box purely because she's an Abusive Parent and she doesn't like her.
In Tom and Jerry: The Movie, Robin is being raised by her evil aunt while her father's away in Tibet. Said Aunt verbally abuses her (she refuses to call her by name, simply calling her "Orphan," and yes, to her face), threw her mother's locket out the window, and is generally only looking after her so she can have access to the fortune Robin is entitled to. It's also implied she locks Robin in her room, and despite the huge amounts of food shown in the kitchen at one point, Robin is never given any.
In The Jungle Book 2, Mowgli's foster father punishes him this way when he nearly leads the children out of the village and into the jungle. Shanti tries to sneak him some fruit the same night.
In an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures parodying Tales from the Crypt, one cartoon has Hamton's mother punish him this way when she finds out he lost his father's prized bottle cap collection in a bet with Plucky.
In one episode of Darkwing Duck, Honker was grounded for supposedly lying. In addition to saying he wasn't allowed to go outside to play or watch television, Herb also began to say no food or water before Binky made him realize what he was saying.
In an episode of Arthur, Buster steals a toy robot from a store and then gets caught when he tries to return it. His punishment is that he is allowed to have dinner, but no dessert.
People in concentration camps were starved (and overworked) to the point of looking like skeletons.
However, the reasons sometimes varied. While in e.g. GULAGs and Nazi concentration camps this was played straight, in the British concentration camps (from the Second Boer War - the Ur-concentration camps), where mainly Boer civilians were kept, many starved to death because most of the time there simply wasn't enough foodstuff to go around—or rather, the foodstuff existed somewhere in-theatre, but logistical problems (as well as simple British negligence and carelessness) kept it from arriving on time and in the correct quantities. Later concentration camps exploited this misfortune.
In GULAGs specifically, this was a Morton's Fork situation. The rations were brutally low to begin with, but increased with your productivity. However, the amount of productivity you needed kept increasing as well, and the rewards could not possibly replace the calories you burned earning it, leaving every prisoner in a vicious cycle. The situation was somewhat alleviated by food packages sent by prisoner's families, and occasionally outright theft (One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich shows a good example of both).
Prisoners in general often had their rations diminished for misbehavior. While not as widely used nowadays because of health concerns, it still happens in places.
A common form of punishment in prisons is "food loaf restriction". The meal the prisoner would be served would be served is mixed up in a blender and baked into a loaf. It has the same nutritional value as a meal, but doesn't taste very good. It can also be served without forks, spoons, or other potentially stabby items. Dessert is a privilege to be earned. Incidentally, guards and prisoners eat the same thing, only guards can go back for seconds if they want.
This used to be a fairly common punishment for misbehaving military personnel, regardless of country. Nowadays, the most common punishments are forfeiture of pay, extra duty, and restriction of privileges.
Provisions for bread and water rations are still on the books in the U.S. Navy, though there are so many prerequisites to actually inflict such a punishment (health clearance, constant monitoring by medical personnel to ensure such a diet doesn't do lasting harm, constant monitoring to ensure the punished doesn't sneak himself food, etc.) that it is almost never used, as it is far easier to just demote the punished or strip them of pay.
It used to be that if a Papal Conclave took too long to decide on a new Pope, Cardinal-Electors would be put on a diet of bread and water until the white smoke blew. This regulation is still technically on the books, but no conclave has dragged on long enough to trigger that provision in a very long time.
This is somewhat surprising, as past elections have dragged on well after food actually was denied. The longest-ever election, November 1268-September 1271 (that's right, it took them almost three whole years) was only ended after the people of Viterbo (where the election was held) decided to remove the roof of the palace where the cardinals were meeting. The Pope elected as a result decided that in the future, papal elections would be held as "conclaves"—i.e. in near-total isolation behind locked doors—and that food would begin to be restricted starting on the fourth day of the conclave.
Sending a misbehaving child to bed without supper was a popular disciplinary action for many parents. Nowadays, denying a child dessert or a treat is a little more common, though.
This is frequently joked about, with the punchline being that this wasn't much of a punishment because the joke-teller's mother was a terrible cook.
Or another family member will take pity on the child and covertly sneak food into their bedroom—the child being already aware that this might happen prevents it from being an especially effective punishment.
Or that kids have some much in their rooms nowadays (computer, phone, tv), to punish them you send them to the parents' room.
The judge in Texas who sentenced a woman to spend the first few days of her animal cruelty prison sentence on a bread and water diet as a reminder of how she'd starved the horses. (after the initial round of news articles, it also showed up on Animal Planet's Animal Cops Houston.)
In North Korea, from what little intel can be gathered from defectors, this is quite pervasive. Those in prison camps are so starved that the inmates must regularly break rules and otherwise steal and hunt for food to survive. However, breaking rules in the camp means you don't even get the normal rations. The general philosophy in the camps is "break enough rules that you get enough food to live, but if you ever get caught you die".
Animal charities warn against doing this to train dogs, since it doesn't work and frequently makes them untrainable. Feed them treats for good behaviour instead.