By Scott Prater

Fort Carson Mountaineer

FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Big changes are underway at the post's dining facilities and many Soldiers may have already noticed a difference.

About a month ago, Fort Carson food program leaders began altering the food offerings available at the Stack Dining Facility (DFAC). Formerly, like most DFACs Armywide, Stack offered cafeteria style dining. Soldiers and other visitors walked through the entrance, showed their meal card or paid the regular meal price and then shuffled through a line where they received the meat, starch and vegetable that was offered each day.

Now, DFAC patrons have a multitude of options.

"We want to get our usage rates up," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Henry Thomas, 4th Infantry Division senior food adviser. "We conducted an analysis and determined there are more than 6,700 meal card holders on the post, and we're not seeing nearly that many at the DFACs, so we're making changes."

Thomas said those changes have already occurred at Stack and are in the works at both the Wolf and Warfighter DFACs.

"The idea behind this effort is to give Soldiers what they want to eat," Thomas said. "No one Soldier is going to desire the same meal as a fellow Soldier. If a diner wants two meats, or two salads or six boiled eggs, the DFAC can provide that."

The drive behind the recent DFAC changes stems right from the top. Thomas explained that Maj. Gen. Randy A. George, commanding general, 4th Inf. Div. and Fort Carson, enjoyed his experience during a visit to the Evans Army Community Hospital Dining Facility late last year. He then issued guidance to 4th Inf. Div. food program leaders to begin emuĀ­lating, and even improving, on the Evans DFAC model, to include healthier food options.

According to Brigitte Grimes, 4th Inf. Div. dietitian, Fort Carson is impleĀ­menting performance-fueling food options and nutrition education postwide in an effort to prompt better food and beverage selections with the aim of optimizing performance, readiness and health.

"The goal of performance nutrition improvements is to achieve and maintain an individual's level of optimum health and the highest level of fitness and performance attainable," she said. "Upcoming changes include robust salad bars with dark, leafy greens and lean proteins such as hard cooked eggs, beans, nuts and seeds as well as the addition of a recovery station to promote effective repairing, rebuilding and replenishing of nutrient stores post-workout."

Besides an increased focus on healthy options, DFAC leaders are also mixing up the way the deliver meals to Soldiers.

"We're also adding more specialty areas, like potato and salad bars and live-cooking stations, where the DFAC cooks will prepare meal items on Hibachi grills and convection cookers," Thomas said. "We're introducing themed food days as well, like Soul Food Thursday and Taco Tuesday."

The recent changes at the Stack DFAC have produced some encouraging results. Thomas said Stack is seeing 100 to 150 additional diners per day since the first option changes were made in mid-January 2018.

"I think we're getting more diners in part because of positive word-of-mouth and social media interactions between Soldiers," Thomas said. "And, we're working to keep gaining diners."

The new campaign also now includes monthly DFAC council meetings, which used to occur quarterly.

"We have this new emphasis to learn what Soldiers want, so that we can implement those things," Thomas said. "(Maj. Gen. George) is also getting more command teams involved in the DFAC council meetings so that he can reiterate his guidance as far as making the DFACs better."