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News | July 5, 2017

Troop Support helps Army food service go mobile

By Alex Siemiatkowski DLA Troop Support Public Affairs

Whether they’re in the field, on their way to the motor pool or leaving the gym, soldiers at two Army posts are lining up to grab a bite to eat at food trucks parked nearby.

Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support is partnering with the Army to help bring its food service into the 21st century with a pilot food truck program.

The first meal-service vehicle began testing operations in February at Fort Lee, Virginia, and two more began at Fort Stewart, Georgia, in March.

“DLA supports our efforts by contracting our prime vendors and ensuring that the vendors provide quality subsistence that meets our soldiers’ satisfaction,” said Stephen Primeau, food service system analyst with the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence at Fort Lee.

The goal of the food truck program is to provide soldiers with a quick and healthy food option in training and field environments, and in other locations where it may be difficult to access a dining facility.

“The food truck phenomenon is exploding in the civilian food service industry, and the Army wants to take advantage of this opportunity to be able to provide it to our soldiers,” Primeau said.

While vendor food trucks are allowed on Army installations through the Army and Air Force Exchange Service or the Morale, Welfare and Recreation activities, the Army-operated food trucks are part of the service’s food program, Primeau said.

A non-commissioned officer and two chefs operate the food trucks, dubbed “The Outpost” following a naming contest, and currently serve breakfast and lunch.

Sgt. Vantayshia Jones, a culinary NCO with the 135th Quartermaster Company, 87th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division Sustainment Brigade, is the team lead for one of the food trucks at Fort Stewart. She said the work space in the truck is tight.

“We’re always bumping into one another,” she said. However, “I believe every culinary specialist and NCO should experience being on a truck and moving fast food on wheels versus out of a building.”

The food trucks have made it easier for soldiers who may live or work far away from the dining facilities to grab a bite to eat, Jones said.

“The Army has definitely expanded [their] food service capabilities by creating the Army food truck,” Jones said. “It’s an amazing opportunity, and all soldiers who are able to give it a try, I say they should.”

Breakfast has been more popular, especially the made-to-order English muffins and the breakfast bowl with tater tots, said Cornelius Williams, Fort Stewart food program manager. They also serve bagels and croissant sandwiches, as well as wraps for breakfast.

“Along with that, they can get fresh fruit, cereal and juice, so they have a nice nutritional menu,” Williams said.

For lunch, soldiers can select an Outpost burger, panini, wrap or sub, Asian specialty bowl or a salad. Lunch also comes with a side dish and drink. The Outpost burger is served with a special sauce, four different types of cheese, mushrooms and onions on a sesame bun.

“We put our special spin on the Outpost burger,” Williams said. “I think you just can’t be American without having a great burger.”

Primeau and Jose Millan, JCCoE senior food service system analyst, are the food-truck project officers at Fort Lee. They began researching the best ways to modernize the Army food program in 2011. Five years later, the JCCoE purchased the three food trucks.

“We tested menus and determined adjustments to the layout of the truck,” Millan said.

Those lessons they learned were shared with food service personnel at Fort Stewart, the second test site.

David Edmonson, a customer service specialist with DLA Troop Support’s Subsistence supply chain, was at Fort Stewart April 3, when the food trucks there opened.

“I thought it was a good idea, and I was curious to see what it would look like,” Edmonson said. “I saw about 20 to 25 people in line while I was there, which is fairly decent for something that is brand new.”

The transition to supporting the food trucks was smooth, Edmonson said. The Subsistence supply chain provided $2.5 million worth of food to six DFACs at Fort Stewart last year. The items are delivered to one dining hall, where they’re prepared and then loaded on the trucks.

The food trucks are being tested at different locations at Fort Stewart, such as barracks, the motor pool and fitness areas, to determine where they work best, said Williams. The trucks are also open 30 minutes longer than the dining facilities, in case a soldier doesn’t get to the dining hall in time.

“A lot of times, these installations were built so long ago that the dining facilities are not centrally located in the soldier’s footprint,” Williams said. “We get out to the soldiers where they work and also where they work out at the gym. We also met with the Better Opportunity for Single Soldiers program to get their feedback on where they think the trucks should be located.”

During their first week, the food trucks served more than 400 meals, Williams said. By the end of April, more than 2,300 meals had been served.

The JCCoE will evaluate the pilot program after six months to determine the next step. Multiple installations have shown interest to host their own food trucks, Primeau said.

“I think we have a nice variety of menus, and we are still collecting feedback,” Williams said. “After the test we will have the defined menus that soldiers prefer. We couldn’t do this program without DLA Troop Support.”