Army food service in Hawaii prioritizing Soldier nutrition, new dining options

By Brian BeallMarch 22, 2024

Culinary Training Center
1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Master Sgt. Andrea Cooper describes the 25th Infantry Division’s Meal Prep Program menu options with the Army Food Innovation and Transformation assessment team at the 25th Infantry Division’s new Culinary Arts Readiness Training Center, March 12, 2024. Photo credit: Brian Beall (Photo Credit: Brian Beall) VIEW ORIGINAL
Sustainment Bistro
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A Soldier with the 25th Infantry Division on Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, prepares a salad at the Sustainment Bistro dining facility, March 12, 2024. Photo credit: Brian Beall (Photo Credit: Brian Beall) VIEW ORIGINAL
Soldier Focus Group
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jeffrey Manninen, Army food advisor, speaks with Soldiers at Schofield Barracks about on-post dining options, March 12, 2024. Photo credit: Brian Beall (Photo Credit: Brian Beall) VIEW ORIGINAL

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii – The state of Hawaii, with its natural beauty and renowned local cuisine, features prominently in the daily lives of the Army’s 25th Infantry Division and its 12,000 Soldiers at Schofield Barracks and Fort Shafter.

While the locale is enticing, the Soldiers of the Army’s “Tropic Lightning” Division also experience unique challenges with the cost, availability and quality of installation dining options – all the focus of a visit by the Army Food Innovation and Transformation team March 11-14, 2024.

Over the course of a four-day assessment, a cross-functional team from Army Materiel Command, Combined Arms Support Command and Army Sustainment Command navigated these challenges with site visits and input from all ranks. Their key takeaway was the readiness of the 25th ID depends in part on providing Soldiers nutritious, high-quality food in a customer-friendly environment.

To Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Haynie, 25th Infantry Division command sergeant major, the availability and quality of food, whether on-post, in training or on the battlefield, is intrinsically linked to a Soldier’s ability to carry out their duties.

“Consistent, high-quality and nutritious food is just as essential to warfighting readiness as the rifle in your hand. Warfighting readiness starts here, at home station, with nutrition forming part of the foundation for performance and readiness,” said Haynie. Soldiers with the 25th are charged with fighting and winning in large-scale combat operations in the Indo-Pacific area of operations.

If an army marches on its stomach, then it is the duty of the 25th ID’s culinary specialists and Warrant Officer Corps to execute feeding operations while deployed, in training and on-post at unit Warrior Restaurants. These culinary experts are supported by a team of installation and Logistics Readiness Center staff who ensure the facilities and equipment are ready for daily operations.

Through multiple focus groups with Soldiers of the 25th ID and Schofield Barracks leaders, the assessment team identified opportunities for immediate changes, including improving information-sharing across post on the monthly operating hours of dining facilities and increasing awareness of existing dining options. Eventually, as the Army transitions the My Army Post app from testing to full operational capability, Schofield Barracks will ensure Soldiers arriving to post are educated on the app through their orientation at the Soldier Support Center.

Over the long-term, the 25th ID will optimize dining operations in line with recent Army force structure changes that will see a reduction in the number of culinary specialists assigned to the unit. Optimizing the food ecosystem on Schofield Barracks will reorient culinary specialists to focus more on field feeding operations and prepare for large scale combat operations, while modernizing existing dining facilities into newer formats, including grab-and-go options at kiosks with pre-made meals and integration of Commissary and Exchange food options in a more customer-friendly format.

The command is already driving forward with modernizing their dining options, and officially opened its state-of-the-art Culinary Arts Readiness Training Center Wednesday, March 13. Under the leadership of Chief Warrant Officer 3 Kenroy Anderson, 25th Infantry Division food advisor, and Master Sgt. Andrea Cooper, the command will train current and future culinary specialists on modern cooking techniques, meal planning and nutrition. The center is also the testbed for a new meal prep program, currently providing 60 Soldiers the opportunity to order and deliver prepared lunch and dinner options for their home or workplace, seven days a week.

For Spc. Devin Helme with the 25th Infantry Division Sustainment Brigade, the meal prep program led to a significant morale boost.

“The meal prep program enables me to select protein options that are more familiar to how my parents cooked for me at home,” said Helme. The command’s meal prep program, initiated in late 2023, is assessing options for expanding to additional Soldiers as the unit recently received new commercial food preparation equipment that will enable them to increase their output.

At the closure of the assessment, 25th Infantry Division leadership emphasized the path forward for modernizing Schofield Barracks dining options is complex, but within reach. As the unit optimizes operations with their culinary specialists, kitchen equipment and the facilities in which they operate, it will take dedication and teamwork.

“We're driving innovation and leading transformation for the Army. Our culinary specialists and Food Service Team are integral to ensuring we get this right for the health, welfare, morale and readiness of our Soldiers,” said Haynie.