Fort Sill pilots ‘Be Strong’ health food truck

The "Be Strong" health food truck staff greet their first customers April 8, 2019, in the parking lot of McNair Hall at Fort Sill, Okla. The Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation business venture is now in front of Snow Hall offering healthy eating alternatives to the public at large. (Photo Credit: Mitch Meador)

FORT SILL, Okla., April 8, 2019 — Food trucks have long been the purveyor of a thousand guilty pleasures — hot dogs, corn dogs, and funnel cakes, to name but a few.

In an effort to support Fort Sill’s healthy eating options for Soldiers and Department of Army civilians, Col. Don King Jr., Fort Sill Garrison commander, in conjunction with the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, worked through Installation Management Command G9 (IMCOM) to create a one-of-a-kind healthy food option truck which provides low calorie meals at very reasonable prices.

IMCOM’s Central Kitchen No. 1 made its first appearance here April 8, on the east side of the McNair Hall parking lot. This was a demonstration day for a select few, before it moved to a new location in front of Snow Hall.

“Be Strong,” proclaimed a large banner fluttering in the breeze, “Powered by Healthy Army Communities.”

Yes, folks, the day of the health food truck has arrived.

“This is our first Army truck for ‘Be Strong,’ serving Healthy Army Communities,” explained Uttam Barua, branch chief for the food and beverages division of IMCOM’s FMWR programs.

“We have about 15 items on the menu. All are freshly made, pretty much the freshest you can get. Our Army has a standard now that 25 percent of our menus need to be healthier,” he said.

While Barua doesn’t have an exact number, he estimates that more than 60 percent of the new food truck’s menu consists of healthier fare.

Examples include the California Veggie Flatbread, the Southwest Black Bean Quinoa Bowl, the Roasted Marinated Portobello Burger, and the Avocado and White Bean Wrap.

“We’re excited to be here, and we appreciate Fort Sill supporting us,” Barua said.

“We are very excited to be launching the first Healthy Army Communities ‘Be Strong’ truck,” agreed Kate Deyermond, business operations chief for Fort Sill FMWR.

Lt. Col. Damon Wells, director of the Commander’s Planning Group, was the first customer, and he said this is the first healthy food truck he has ever seen. His choice? The Tuscan Chicken Flatbread (tomato sauce, grilled chicken, artichokes, red onions, tomatoes, fresh basil, and low-fat mozzarella cheese). It weighed in at 490 calories.

“It was delicious. I loved it. It had artichokes on it, which you rarely find at a food truck or elsewhere. It was good,” he said.

Fort Sill is the pilot program for this healthier alternative to the traditional “roach coach,” although some of its menu offerings can be found at other FMWR operations.

Deyermond said Be Strong “is part of our holistic approach to feeding all of the military on Fort Sill. We’re looking to change some of the options around to be healthier choices and under 500 calories and healthy, fresh options across the board.”

The reason why Fort Sill is the launching pad for this bold new approach is that former Brenda Spencer-Ragland, FMWR director, started looking into healthier eating choices two years ago. Barua said she was very much involved, so that makes this a “legacy pilot program.”

Starting April 9, the “Be Strong” truck moved to the front of Snow Hall. Deyermond called that “a really good location for this whole complex. So, everybody in the vicinity of McNair, Knox, and Snow halls, as well as the surrounding community, can visit the food truck.”

As the program expands, FMWR will be able to do all sorts of different things with its new business enterprise, she predicted. “Like go out to LETRA (Lake Elmer Thomas Recreation Area) to support the lunch crowd there on the weekends, as well as different unit things, like if there’s a unit run or some sort of party or celebration that they want to have us come out for, we can look into those options as well,” Deyermond said.

How long will the new truck be here? Barua has a ready answer for that: “As long as Fort Sill wants it.”

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