WEST POINT, NY, UNITED STATES
Story by Jorge Garcia
United States Military Academy at West Point
“You are what you eat,” Chief Warrant Officer 4 Edgar Walle, the installation food advisor said as he explained all the changes the Cadet Mess Hall is making to facilitate healthier food options for cadets at the U.S. Military Academy. Typically, hamburgers, fries, pre-made breakfast sandwiches and other fast-food options were available to cadets. However, on Monday, the Go For Green taste test event took place where, during lunch time, cadets were introduced to a new menu with all the fast-food options removed.
Walle and Superintendent Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams got together to discuss the Go for Green plan that would be implemented to accommodate healthier and more varied palates for cadets. Walle along with his team conducted a catalogue scrub: a process in which the dining facility manager sifts through inventory and decides what to keep or discard from the usual food deliveries.
“We had our guys conduct inventory on the food supplies and saw the foods we had on hand and realized this process of serving cadets pre-made meals was not going to work,” Walle said. “We called our vendor (US Foods) and told them that we didn’t want to see pre-made goods ever again.”
Walle added the new food options consist of items that might look fried but are air-fried which has significantly less fat and cuts calories by 70% to 80%. Brown rice and a variety of vegetables and other healthy starch options will be served including sweet potato fries.
“If we’re not putting in the proper nutrients and the right number of calories in our bodies then our performance is going to suffer, our minds are going to suffer,” Walle said.
Typically, chicken, pork and beef have always been a part of the menu, however, with the Go for Green plan, all meat products will be steamed during the cooking process. Fresh fish has been added to the menu, so every lunch and dinner will have a fish portion, Walle added.
“It’s all about preparation,” Walle said. “Another aspect of this program was re-training the staff. It’s been sometime since they actually prepared meals so we needed to knock some of that rust off.”
A US Foods team from metro New York came to West Point with four top-tier chefs with decades of experience to help train the West Point culinary staff on preparing the meals. They prepared items from start to finish with the morning crew and stayed throughout the day to help train the second shift, Kevin Adamo, the account executive for US Foods, said.
“West Point has access to some of the greatest sustainable and local products available,” Adamo said. “ The chefs are just really trying to help to team here work with those products in the most effective way possible. After all, we trying to provide the cadets with quality service.”
Walle added that he noticed how efficient his cooks have been since the training session with the US Foods chefs. The entire process of implementing the Go For Green plan helped Walle understand the value of teamwork.
“We are no longer spending money on junk and we need to be methodical on how we approach implementing this plan due to the expenses that go into providing cadets with healthy meals,” Walle said. “I will continue to do what is necessary to see that cadets are eating properly because I know that the healthy food they eat will translate to optimal performance in their endeavors.”
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