New meals making their way onto Coast Guard plates

by Petty Officer 2nd Class Anthony L. Soto

Meat sizzles on the stove; boiling vegetables are monitored closely. Spices add zest to a side dish; the aroma of newly baked bread hangs in the air. Fruits are sliced carefully- soon to be part of a pudding. The kitchen is a space where all one’s senses work at the same time. Along with music, dancing, and art, cooking is one of the cultural universals humans share throughout the world. Throughout the United States food has been the subject in the discussion between what people eat and the health effects, in recent years.

It has been said food is what moves armies. For members of the U.S. Coast Guard, food can be a morale booster, especially at sea during long missions; but the reverse can also be true- if the food is bad, morale will suffer. For Coast Guardsmen stationed at Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville, in Mayport, Florida, who carry out important missions, new meals have made their way onto their plates in the past few months.

Chief Petty Officer Andrew Donahue, a food service specialist and head of the Sector Jacksonville galley, has introduced an original way to help feed the troops at his unit. Donahue said that there isn’t anything wrong with military food as it is, nor does he have anything against pre-packaged foods, but there is room for improvement.

“I prefer not to use them,” he said. “If you have the fresh stuff, it’s so much better for you. But yes, a lot of times, you have to resort to using the frozen foods and stuff like that. But like I said, if can avoid using it, by all costs do it.”

While canned foods and vegetables have helped serve troops in the warzones of the past, Donahue has decided to replace these ingredients with healthier options. Real potatoes are being used to make mashed potatoes in place of pre-packaged ones. Fresh berries and fruit salads are making their way to the breakfast line, in addition to the usual eggs and bacon.

The idea for this new menu came from his home, where he regularly serves healthy meals to his family.

“My goal is to enhance the quality of the food,” said Donahue. “I want to help the personnel here enjoy healthier options that will benefit them. It’s my hope that if they eat healthy here, they will be better performers out in the field.”

Having brought new recipes to the kitchen, Donahue said there has been a noticeable increase in mess deck patronage. He added that some crewmembers have already identified a new favorite dish.

The fresh foods initiative is not limited to Sector Jacksonville alone.

“I think the whole military is going through a bit of a transition to healthier food options,” Donahue said.

“We’re not introducing anything new,” he said. “I’m just making stuff available that I haven’t seen on menus in a while. It seems like the trend is nowadays, people want to eat those foods. It’s great to have people wanting them and us being able to prepare new items.”

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