Army meals undergo ‘million dollar overhaul’ to offer more healthy, dietary-specific choices

Photo By Jenn DeHaan | Vendors set up tables at Cantigny Dining Facility Oct. 5, 2021 for a menu tasting event. Attendees tried the different food options and filled out comment cards expressing their opinions.



Story by Jenn DeHaan 

FORT KNOX, Ky. – Fort Knox offered a menu tasting event in Cantigny Dining Facility Oct. 5 as one of the final steps in implementing updates to Army dining that promises to provide more expansive food choices for Soldiers.

One of the newest members of the Fort Knox dining facility team, Dana Womack said the new menu consists of a great deal more vegetarian and gluten-free items, nutritionally sound foods, and health-conscious preparation techniques.

“As the new Food Program manager, my goal is to refocus nutrition in all installation Warrior Restaurants,” said Womack. “This starts with reimagining the dining experience at Fort Knox to include quality, selection, presentation, training and infrastructure.

“It’s about giving every Soldier the opportunity to have access to optimum nutrition while taking their dietary needs into consideration.”

The new program is part of a million dollar overhaul to the existing “Go for Green” color coding system designed to show Soldiers which food options are healthiest, according to Womack. She said while it’s not yet mandated Army-wide as it undergoes final changes, a number of installations have already implemented the new menus.

The hope, according to Womack, is for Fort Knox to have these new changes fully rolled out by mid-November.

Womack explained the items offered in this week’s menu tasting had already been approved by the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence. However, each food and beverage now faces individual recommendations based on comment card responses.

One Soldier in attendance said he was surprised how much he enjoyed many of the items offered at the tasting, including some of the plant-based and vegan options.

“I definitely would get them once they’re here,” said Spc. Antonio Vazquez. “Now that we have a wider variety of things, I think you’ll see a lot more people coming over to the DFAC.”

In addition to supplying Soldiers with nutritional options every day, Womack emphasized the important role future Cadet Summer Training will play in the dining transition at Fort Knox. The college students receive both a literal and figurative first taste of what it’s like to eat as a Soldier.

“These are the leaders, the commissioned officers of the future, so it’s imperative that they are exposed to healthier food selections,” said Womack. “The standard starts with them.”

Fort Knox Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. William Fogle also attended the menu tasting. He pointed out the program’s success isn’t going to just happen on its own.

“This is a commitment to the military food transformation efforts,” said Fogle. “It’s about getting the right foods, educating the staff in how to prepare the items, and giving Soldiers the know-how to select those items that are healthy for them.

“We can put the healthy foods out there, but if we don’t educate them, they are not going to be able to make those wise decisions. This is a collective effort from everybody.”

Chief of Nutrition Care Services Laura Bottoms echoed Fogle’s words, saying she hopes these new options will help Soldiers feel better informed about what the best choices are when in the DFAC. She said their personal confidence in their own decisions is the desired result.

“We don’t want to take away that full choice,” said Bottoms. “There will be things on the menu that meet people’s needs or desires, but we’ll also make sure there are healthy choices for those that choose them.”

Bottoms said the overall objective is making the DFACs at Fort Knox the premier locations for Soldier dining.

“We are feeding warfighters. That is our job,” said Bottoms. “Our primary goal is to fuel the warfighter. I want them to want to come here to do that.”

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