Categorized | Featured, Operations

Food Worth Fighting For

Posted on 23 March 2010 by Agile Chef

Considering the stereotypes surrounding military food, it’s no wonder that most people rank it just above “jailhouse fare”. Luckily, things have changed since the days of Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) and Spam.

Today’s base commissaries are stocked with the same products that fill commercial grocery store aisles, as well as ready-to-cook frozen foods and prepared dishes. Most bases also feature a wide variety of restaurants, from quick service chains to fast casual concepts. With so many options available, it’s easy to forget how much time servicemen and women spend dining in traditional mess halls. Simply put, military foodservice workers provide a lot of food to a lot of people, every day. But how do they keep their operations organized?

For some military bases, outside food manufacturers are the answer. Many bases choose to outsource contracts to government-funded foodservice vendors with experience in the nontraditional sector. For instance, when the U.S. Marine Corps bid out its first outside foodservice contract in 2002, it chose a vendor with extensive university and business-and-industry experience. By incorporating time-saving preparation methods (like putting together boxed lunches on tray lines) and drawing on popular trends in similar foodservice segments (like grab-and-go dishes), the vendor gave Marine foodservice members a way to serve more meals in less time at a lower cost to the Marine Corps.

At other bases, food is purchased from wholesale brokers and prepared on-site by military chefs. While the acquisition and distribution of military food items is largely identical to standard commercial brokerage practices, it’s important to note that these products must qualify for military foodservice use in accordance with the Department of Defense’s Prime Vendor program specifications. Following governmental approval, products are assigned identification codes and distributed via licensed brokers to military bases for use in troop-pleasing meals and menu items.

But these aren’t your standard cafeteria meals, either. Every year, military foodservice honors are awarded to the armed forces’ top cooks, and in 2008, the U.S. Army sent eleven of its brightest culinary stars to the International Culinary Olympics competition. Military chefs take their jobs — and the meals they prepare — seriously.

So whether bases bid out foodservice contracts to outside vendors or purchase wholesale foods for on-site preparation, the quality and efficiency of today’s military foodservice operations has improved dramatically since the days of M*A*S*H-style mess halls. And we’ve come a long way from Spam!

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One Response to “Food Worth Fighting For”

  1. Christopher Jennings says:

    No wonder our military is the best in the world. They are serviced by no less than the best of military chefs. It makes me proud as an American. Our men and women in uniform only deserves the best of the best.


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