The Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support Subsistence supply chain began providing support to U.S. Navy culinary specialists assigned to submarines in its first ever freeze-dried food pilot program.
Testing of these items began April 1 on submarines out of Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut.
“We started with two submarines to do some testing and acceptability,” Force Culinary Specialist Master Chief Petty Officer Mark Anderson, Submarine Force Atlantic said.
The acquisition of freeze-dried foods meets a new requirement the DLA Troop Support Subsistence Team received from the Navy in late December 2018 to provide the fleet with the ability to store more subsistence products.
“Submarines are limited in our stowage capacity of products,” Anderson said. “We have to be very creative in how and where we store food.”
Once the Navy received approval to move forward with the pilot program, the Subsistence Team immediately went to work, said Amanda Holzerman, a tailored vendor logistics specialist in subsistence.
In less than three months, the freeze-dried items were added to the catalog of available products for customers, an initial order was received from the Navy, and the products were delivered.
According to a NASA, freeze-drying food requires it to undergo a process that removes water through a vacuum to prevent spoilage while maintaining most of the flavor, color and texture indefinitely making them very light and compact requiring no refrigeration.
Most important to the Navy, freeze-dried food takes up less room on a submarine.
“The [freeze-dried] items come in cans so they will take up less freezer space, storage room and have a longer shelf-life,” Holzerman said.
In terms of nutritional value, Anderson said that the Army’s research facility for food products, Natick Laboratory, has determined that the freeze-dried foods are equal if not better than dehydrated products that the Navy has used in the past.
To maintain a limited scope for the pilot program, Anderson stated the Navy purchased several ingredients for their pizza and chicken noodle soup menu items.
“We bought sausage crumbles, ground beef, pizza cheese, shredded cheddar and diced chicken,” he said. “Moving forward we plan to evaluate other items that are freeze-dried but will take a slow and methodical approach to see what the crews think of it.”
Although the pilot program has been underway for less than a month, one sailor noticed no change.
“We served our chief of staff, blind-tasted and blind-tested to see what he thought of it,” Anderson said. “He was unable to tell which items where freeze-dried so that was positive.”