NATICK, Mass. -- Thanks to experts in the Combat Feeding Division, or CFD, at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center, or DEVCOM SC, and their partners, warfighters will be served new improved recipes and have access to coded food choices that will make choosing performance-enhancing foods easier than ever before.
The updates and improvements are the result of an intensive five-year effort by Armed Forces Recipe Service personnel and their collaborators. The AFRS is a joint services project that oversees recipes for dining facilities and shipboard across all branches of the military.
The AFRS effort updated, improved, and created more than 3,000 recipes, including the review of 1600 existing recipes, called “legacy” recipes. They modified numerous recipes to increase nutrition and enhance performance. For example, some updates include leaner options, more plant-based choices, more whole and ancient grains, more minimally processed ingredients, and reduced sodium and saturated fat. The updated recipes also include more herbs, spices, and other healthier flavorings to improve taste.
Jennifer Billington – a food technologist and registered dietitian working in CFD, part of the Sustainment Directorate at DEVCOM SC – is the project officer for AFRS. She is proud of the recipe developers’ work on the AFRS recipe update.
“I really want to give credit to all the food technologists who are doing the hands-on work,” said Billington. “They all have nutrition backgrounds. Some of us are registered dietitians and some of us are actually chefs with culinary degrees. We all bring an assortment of food and nutrition knowledge and lots of creative ways to make healthier foods taste great.”
One of the most important aspects of the five-year effort is that it simplifies making better food choices for menu planners and for the diners themselves. The project incorporates the Go for Green® coding system, which increases the likelihood of warfighters choosing better options by increasing the number of improved nutrition and performance options available.
“For the past several years, the Consortium for Military Health and Performance (CHAMP) and AFRS have partnered in developing and piloting an updated and more robust Go for Green nutrition labeling and education initiative,” said Billington.
Billington said that the coding “concerns nutrient density and nutrient quality of the recipe. The idea is to make it easy for diners to identify the ‘better for them’ choices. All the recipe revisions really focus on big flavor – making them look better, smell better and taste better.”
Billington explained that under the Go for Green coding system, green choices provide optimal nutrition for enhanced performance, yellow choices are less optimal but are fine to choose occasionally, and red items should be eaten sparingly. The updated recipes combined with the coding will help everyone from menu/meal planners to dining hall chefs to individual warfighters make more informed meal choices.
“I think what we’ve been seeing during some of our pilot studies in Go for Green is that changing menus makes one of the biggest impacts on what they are choosing,” said Billington. “If they have more of the green-coded options available, they will choose more of the green-coded options.”
DEVCOM SC’s collaborations with other organizations were key to the project’s success.
“We have been working with CFD for decades with mutually beneficial outcomes to not just each organization but also to our warfighters,” said Patricia Deuster, PhD, MPH, FACSM, professor and Chief Science Officer, Consortium for Health and Military Performance (CHAMP) at the Uniformed Services University. “Our latest collaboration with the Armed Forces Recipe Service in particular will benefit all warfighters by creating more nutritious recipes to be served at dining facilities than in the past. These exciting and productive efforts would not be happening if we were not partners.”
In addition to CHAMP, DEVCOM SC worked with the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, or USARIEM, and the Joint Services Recipe Committee, chaired by the Navy.
“We had close communication with the Joint Services Recipe Committee, which is made up of representatives from all the services, all guiding the direction of our work with one joint voice,” said Billington. “We also worked closely with CHAMP because of our Go for Green relationship, which has enabled us to develop more and better resources. We also worked with USARIEM as part of the Go for Green relationship, and they afforded us opportunities to interface directly with the dining facility staff.”
USARIEM and CFD are long-term partners. USARIEM's mission is to optimize warfighter health and performance through medical research.
“The effort by AFRS over recent years has been phenomenal, as they work collaboratively with various key stakeholders to support performance-based menu programs in military dining venues,” said Lt. Col. Asma Bukhari, a research dietitian at USARIEM’s Military Nutrition Division. “Nutritious, evidence-based, tasty recipes are at the heart of programmatic interventions, such as Go for Green. The U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) Human Performance Program (HPP), along with research from USARIEM, have demonstrated improvements in the Healthy Eating Index (a measure of meal quality) of warfighters when a performance-based menu was offered.”
The project reflects DEVCOM SC CFD’s extensive expertise and long-term experience in feeding the military, as well as its fruitful collaborations with the joint services and other organizations.
“I’ve had the privilege to work with some really passionate and dedicated people whose main purpose is to take care of our warfighters not just in the moment, but long term,” said Billington. “This isn’t just a job, it’s a critical mission and it’s an honor for me to be a part of it.”
Erin Gaffney Stomberg, PhD, RD, team leader of the Functional Food & Nutritional Intervention Team in DEVCOM SC’s CFD, also noted the importance of CFD’s commitment to the warfighter.
“People are my priority, and the CFD mission is inherently centered around the people dear to my heart, our joint force service members,” said Stomberg. “As a registered dietitian, I’m keenly aware of the importance of quality nutrition to health and performance. I love that the collaborative work that CFD does touches multiple aspects of the nutrition environment, from the collaboration with USARIEM on the Performance Readiness Bar that supports warfighters in initial entry training, to performance supporting recipes and menus in garrison feeding environments, to operational rations and food service equipment supporting service members on the front lines. How we provide high quality nutrition is always changing with the evolving demands of the future warfighter, for example in contested domains as outlined in the Multi-Domain Operational concept. We are working hard to continually develop and modernize food-related capabilities that support warfighter success in these future scenarios.”
The DEVCOM Soldier Center is committed to discovering, developing, and advancing science and technology solutions that ensure America’s warfighters are optimized, protected, and lethal. DEVCOM Soldier Center supports all of the Army's Modernization efforts, with the Soldier Lethality and Synthetic Training Environment Cross Functional Teams being the DEVCOM Soldier Center’s chief areas of focus. The center’s science and engineering expertise are combined with collaborations with industry, DOD, and academia to advance Soldier and squad performance. The center supports the Army as it transforms from being adaptive to driving innovation to support a Multi-Domain Operations Capable Force of 2028 and a MDO Ready Force of 2035. DEVCOM Soldier Center is constantly working to strengthen Soldiers’ performance to increase readiness and support for warfighters who are organized, trained, and equipped for prompt and sustainable ground combat.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) outreach and mentoring the next generation of scientists and engineers is also an important part of the mission of DEVCOM Soldier Center. The mentoring of students by Army scientists and engineers benefits the students and their communities. It also increases young people's awareness of potential Army job opportunities and helps provide the Army with potential new talent, helping to fuel innovative ideas that benefit the nation's warfighters and the nation as a whole.
DEVCOM Soldier Center is part of DEVCOM. Through collaboration across the command's core technical competencies, DEVCOM leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more lethal to win our nation's wars and come home safely. DEVCOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command.