Fort McCoy News Sept. 8, 2017

Post's food-reutilization program makes sure

nothing goes to waste

STORY & PHOTOS BY AIMEE MALONE
Public Affairs Staff

After any meal, there are sure to be leftovers. When those meals are ordered for entire units, the leftovers can take up a lot more space than a shelf in the fridge.

To prevent the leftover food from going to waste, the Fort McCoy Logistics Readiness Center's Subsistence Supply Management Office (SSMO) has developed a memorandum of agreement with the Wisconsin Division of Public Health and The Hunger Task Force of La Crosse to donate unused rations to the task force's food bank.

Food Service Specialist Jim Gouker with the Food Program Management Office said the need for a food-reutilization program was identified several years ago but only recently formalized with a memorandum.

Tamra Meyer, supply technician with the Subsistence Supply Management Office, sorts packaged food items Aug. 22 that have been returned to the SSMO by units training at Fort McCoy.
Tamra Meyer, supply technician with the Subsistence Supply
Management Office, sorts packaged food items Aug. 22 that have been
returned to the SSMO by units training at Fort McCoy.

"There was not a process to take care of residual rations," Gouker said. "Residual rations are things that are left over after large-scale exercises or smaller trainings from the UGRs (unitized group rations) or enhancements to the UGRs."

A unitized group ration is a module of three boxes that contain all the components of a 50-person meal except for items such as milk and cold cereal. Optional enhancements, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, are also excluded but available to order through the SSMO.

"When they're putting those boxes together, they have to figure that every person is going to have two pieces of bread. They're going to have jelly and peanut butter," Gouker said. "The only problem is that doesn't happen."

A Soldier may opt to only have cereal one day for breakfast or not want to use the provided condiments. Enough Soldiers may skip dessert that an entire cake is left in the packaging at the end of the training.

"You end up with residuals or leftovers. But they're all packaged, wholesome foods," Gouker said.

If the unit decides it can't or doesn't want to transport the food back to its home station, it's turned in to the SSMO, where the employees find ways to make sure the food is used instead of sitting around until it spoils and has to be tossed.

Gouker said the preference is always to let other units make use of the food if possible to help make the best possible use of government funds. Supply Technician Kelly Tilbury, manager of SSMO, works with incoming units to try to reuse the leftover rations on post. Because the food has already been paid for, units can stretch their budgets by opting for supplies the SSMO has on hand.

Supply Technician Kelly Tilbury, Subsistence Supply Management Office manager, opens up the back of a truck from The Hunger Task Force of La Crosse at the building 490 loading dock Aug. 31.
Supply Technician Kelly Tilbury, Subsistence Supply Management Office
manager, opens up the back of a truck from The Hunger Task Force of La
Crosse at the building 490 loading dock Aug. 31.



Todd Effinger, supply technician, moves a pallet of food in to a truck as part of a food donation.
Todd Effinger, supply technician, moves a pallet of food in to a truck as
part of a food donation Aug. 31.

"He'll say, 'I know you were planning on serving carrots that day, but we've got a bunch of corn or green beans. Would you be willing to swap it out? Because these are free,'" Gouker said. "The priority is always Soldiers first. But unfortunately, we run into times, like now, when we're getting toward the end of our training season.

"We're just rolling up CSTX right now and so we're in the process of breaking all this up and seeing what can be used here, but because we're also going into fall, we don't have as many people coming after that."

Gouker said about 75 percent of the food that units turn in can be reutilized by other units coming to Fort McCoy. About 25 percent of the food ends up being donated.

Items with longer shelf lives, such as powdered eggs or canned vegetables, can be stored until the next training season and used then.

Food items that will expire before a unit can use them, whether they're fresh fruits and vegetables or packaged foods, are donated to The Hunger Task Force of La Crosse.

According to its website, The Hunger Task Force is a nonprofit organization that coordinates donations from approximately 480 donors and food drives and distributes to more than 90 programs in La Crosse, Vernon, Trempealeau, Monroe, and Winona counties.

The task force identifies which sites have the most pressing need for food, whether it's an emergency relief site, a soup kitchen or community meal program, or a food pantry.

"That's part of the reason we reached out to them. The Hunger Task Force hits all of these," Gouker said.

"If we just went to a local site, we would only reach the organizations that they service. The task force coordinates with more than 90 separate programs."

In 2016, The Hunger Task Force of La Crosse distributed more than 1.3 million pounds of food to its partner agencies.

"What they're doing is fantastic," Gouker said. "So when we have excess, I think it's really cool that we can give back to the community and be a part of this."

The Subsistence Supply Management Office is part of the Food Program Management Office, which belongs to the Logistics Readiness Center at Fort McCoy.