Plant-based menu items introduced at Okinawa Marine Corps mess halls

Photo By Cpl. Christopher Madero | U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Michael Coppa, a food specialist with 1st Marine Corps Aircraft Wing, poses for a photo after serving Marines, May 13, 2020 at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan. In an effort to be more inclusive of Marines with different lifestyles, MCAS Futenma’s mess hall was the first military dining facility on Okinawa to introduce a plant-based burger to it’s menu. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Christopher A. Madero)



Story by Cpl. Christopher Madero 

Marine Corps Installations Pacific 

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION FUTENMA, OKINAWA, Japan – Marines step in line to try the newest addition to their mess hall menu – plant-based burgers.

In August 2019, MCIPAC-MCBB Installation Food Service Office conducted their annual review board with patrons from across Okinawa. During the board, patrons expressed their concern with a lack of plant-based items on Marine Corps menus.

The review showed that a Marine who is vegan, vegetarian, or simply does prefer eating meat products can feel very limited in their mess hall line due it’s lack of vegan/vegetarian options. However, the Marine Corps is always finding ways to be more inclusive to Marines of all lifestyles.

May 13 marked the first day a plant-based made an appearance in MCAS Futenma’s mess hall. This was not the just the first time plant-based food were served in MCAS Futenma, but the first time it was served in any military dining facility in Okinawa according to U.S. Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer 2 Thomas Heinsohn, the base food service operations officer.

There was no special setup or announcement for the newest menu item. The only adjustment made to the MCAS Futenma mess hall was a small addition to the main line.

Food service specialists asked patrons if they’d be willing to try the new item, and serving them as they passed through.

“It was a great burger.” said Lance Cpl Alexander Skelton, an air support operations officer with 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. “It’s nice to see the [mess hall] committed to giving more choices to Marines with different diets and beliefs.”

This is not the first time dining facilities on Okinawa have had plant-based options. Food items are adopted into and removed from menus depending on it’s feedback. If a food item has a decline in demand, it is removed from the menu. There have been times in the past where plant-based options were introduced into the menu, but its demand from patrons dwindled over time.

Now and in the future, the Marine Corps will continue to choose what’s best to put on a Marine’s plate.

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