A Subsistence employee noticed in the early 1990s that poor quality produce was being served in Denver public schools. So he decided to do something about it.
Russ Brooks helped usher in the Department of Defense Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program to provide produce to U.S. schools. Brooks is retiring this month after 35 years of service with the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support.
As a Subsistence field representative in the Northwest Region, Brooks thought the supply chain could deliver better quality produce to schools in Denver. A partnership was eventually born between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and DLA Troop Support in which Subsistence buys and distributes fresh fruits and vegetables to schools.
Brooks helped start the program in Denver and established DLA support to four of the first eight states that piloted the program in 1996.
“I am very proud and always will remember that the very first shipment of produce with the USDA was delivered from my Denver Defense Subsistence Office to Cheyenne, Wyoming,” Brooks said.
DLA now provides produce through the program to schools in 48 states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam. The program has expanded to also support Indian reservations with produce.
“I was, and am, still proud that DLA is the main supplier of fresh produce to the USDA schools and Food Distribution Program on Indian reservations, as well as our most valued military troops,” Brooks said.
Brooks has supported DLA’s primary customers, the warfighter, since 1981. As a field rep in the Northwest, he supports customers in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota.
Brooks describes field reps as being "boots on the ground journalists and trouble shooters in a battlefield.”
“We are strategically located around the country near our military, schools and tribal customers to provide quick fixes onsite,” said Brooks. “The representatives react to situations relating to all areas of Subsistence.”
In addition to meeting with school and tribal customers, Brooks said he averages over 120 site visits annually to military bases in his region.
“Face-to-face, on-site visits and attendance enables for that effective and efficient link in the chain from the customer to our superiors,” said Brooks.
John Tolomeo, Subsistence division chief of the Northwest region, said he relies on Brooks to provide feedback on customers’ needs and concerns.
“Russ Brooks is a dynamic person and is all about the mission,” Tolomeo said. “As the eyes and ears of the Northwest region, I find it imperative that he be there. He is like the sheriff over in Colorado.”
Brooks plans to enjoy “the Colorado way of life” during his retirement, including hiking and fishing.