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Army modernizing culinary services at installations

Food trucks or Culinary Outposts can provide soldiers with options that are closer to where they operate on a daily basis. Photo credit: U.S. Army

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Soldiers may notice that things are starting to change at Army installations when it comes to food services - updated meal offerings, more accessible dining locations, and modernized payment methods are among a slew of changes that are in the works, and in many cases have begun to roll out.

These changes stem from the Army's readiness and modernization priorities and were codified in July 2019 when the Army G-4 revised Army Regulation (AR) 30-22, the Army Food Program. While the language contained in the Army Regulation may be technical to some, the overall objective is clear:

Provide the policies necessary to ensure that soldiers are offered safe, nutritionally balanced, sufficiently varied, and appealing meals that are time phased appropriately in environments that range from fixed installation dining facilities (DFACs), to extended delivery options and contingency operations.

Since AR 30-22 was published, Army G-4 leadership has been working closely with the Army's Senior Leaders, subordinate commands, and culinary specialists to translate the words in the regulations to real-world initiatives and changes that meet the overall objective. There are several major lines of effort that are underlying the Army Food Modernization program, which follow:

1. Nutritional Performance Initiatives:

a. Provide Better Products, Increase and Improve Menu Selections,

Embrace New Recipes

b. Adjust the Basic Daily Allowance for Food (BDFA)

c. Implement Go for Green-Army Nutritional Standards

2. Modernize Feeding Options:

a. Provide Mobile Culinary Outposts (Food Trucks) & Kiosks

b. Extend Dinning Hours

c. Establish Campus-style Dining

3. Enhance DFACs:

a. Develop Army Food Service App to Provide Daily Menu

b. Increase Hours of Operation

c. Update Décor and Provide Wi-Fi

4. Automation Modernization:

a. Automate CAC and Transform Meal Card Program

b. Enable Credit/Debit Card Payments at DFACs

"At the end of the day, we are working to provide soldiers with better, more nutritious eating options," said LTG Duane Gamble, U.S. Army Deputy Chief of Staff, G-4. "But a major piece of the puzzle when it comes to getting them into the DFACs is not only the quality of the food, but the environment that they are eating in. If we can get to a place where DFACs are seen as places to eat, socialize, and bond as a unit, I think we'll have successfully modernized the Army culinary program."

The Army is committed to fielding a modernized culinary service program that meets soldiers' needs and desires. As a result, a number of the food modernization initiatives are being extensively tested through pilot programs to ensure that when they are fielded, they'll meet the underlying objective.

One such test are food trucks or Culinary Outposts, which are currently operating at about a dozen installations. The intent is to provide soldiers with options that are closer to where they operate on a daily basis. Culinary Outposts are equipped to provide meal for up to 200 soldiers per meal, utilizing standardized menus for quick preparation of nutritional items.

Modernizing the Army's culinary services enterprise is an essential initiative that will take time, testing, feedback, and implementation, as there are numerous moving components that are instrumental to feeding soldiers. To make menu changes, one must first ensure ingredients are sourced, stocked and distributed and culinary specialists are trained to prepare new recipes.

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