JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas —
After years of concentrating on serving healthy food in its dining facilities, the Air Force is now doubling down to make sure meals not only deliver great nutrition but an abundance of flavor as well.
“We’re charged with fueling the human weapons system and ensuring our Airmen have the right food to increase their performance, resiliency and lethality,” said Col. Donna Turner, Air Force Services Activity commander. Based on customer feedback and the demand for healthier and flexible food options, “we realized we needed to rethink our recipe on how we deliver food and beverage across the enterprise,” Turner said.
Airmen want better food and easier access to healthy meals, said Jim Krueger, AFSVA chief of Air Force Food & Beverage Policy and Procedures, and through the new Air Force Healthy Food Initiative, Airmen are getting just that.
“The services activity is working a deliberate agenda to deliver tasty food when, where and how Airmen need it,” Krueger said.
“Before we were just focused on healthy food, then we realized the ingredients and end products are healthy but may not taste the way our Airmen want them to taste,” added H.L. Larry, director of Air Force Services. “Now we’re focused on not only healthy food but food that tastes good, and food we can produce consistently.”
One of the options being introduced across the Air Force is the Pure Food Bar, a station that offers plant and plant-based options with whole grains.
“The Pure Food Bar gives you that power performance so you’re not tired and ready for a nap after lunch … you feel like you’re ready to go do your job and you’re mentally fueled and fit to fight,” Turner said.
A variety of plant-based and meatless, as well as ‘stealth health,’ meals were recently presented to Air Force general officers and senior executive service members during the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center’s GO/SES Summit in San Antonio.
Stealth health is using preparation options like air fryers to increase the healthiness of a meal without sacrificing great taste.
During the summit, Larry said he and other senior leaders at his table were surprised by the taste of the food delivered by Air Force services professionals.
“You taste it and you think ‘oh my,’” Larry said. “We were all commenting on how we couldn’t believe how good everything tasted … we would empty a dish and all four of us would go back and try something else. All of the meals were awesome and I heard very positive comments from everyone.”
Larry said many of the attendees had heard about or tasted healthy food options made with tofu and other plant-based options “but they just weren’t tasty.
“We’re bridging that gap … it’s healthy and nutritious but it also has great taste,” he said.
In addition to healthy, tasty food, Airmen want convenience.
Under AFSVA’s Food 2.0, food and beverage is part of what’s called campus dining with tasty, healthy food options available at both dining facilities and at nonappropriated fund cafes and restaurants.
“Many of our Airmen and other customers have said they want increased access closer to their work centers. That’s why it’s key for us to be able to provide grab-and-go capabilities but still be able to provide those healthy options that they’d find in a legacy dining facility,” Turner said.
With healthy, nutritious, tasty food that’s conveniently located becoming a reality at Air Force installations across the enterprise, commanders and senior leaders are excited about the possibilities.
“They didn’t realize we had the capability to deliver this type of food to fuel our Airmen for performance,” Turner said following the GO/SES Summit. “It’s opened their eyes to new capabilities that we have and they’re looking forward to launching it across the Air Force.”
Airmen can contact their local dining facility to find out more about healthy food options available or coming to their installations.