USNA Commandant letter today

<p>In a letter addressed to the Parents of Midshipmen:</p>

<p>Dear Parents,</p>

<p>Naval Academy food was the topic of a recent letter to the editor of the Annapolis Capital in which a local parent raised issues regarding food quantity and quality. We’d like to address some of these issues and help set the record straight regarding how we fulfill our mission of feeding midshipmen.</p>

<p>First, a little background. Food service and quality are important aspects of fitness and morale in the Navy and Marine Corps, and it is no less important here at the Academy. In the Fleet, eating together on ship’s mess decks, in the Chief’s mess and in wardrooms helps officers, Sailors and Marines develop and maintain camaraderie so important to unit cohesiveness and effectiveness. Just as a family nurtures relationships around a dinner table, service men and women do so by eating together. </p>

<p>At the beginning of this academic year, Naval Academy leadership restructured the meal policy for midshipmen to increase the number of meals they were eating together to foster the leadership opportunities similar to the Fleet experience. We experienced some food distribution and quality issues which have been aggressively addressed by Academy leadership, Navy food service experts and, most significantly, by midshipmen, who continue to provide thoughtful and helpful suggestions to ensure all 420 tables in our King Hall dining facility consistently receive the quantity and quality of food they require.</p>

<p>While it is not our intent to discredit the parent who wrote this letter to the editor, it contained a number of inaccuracies, and it is important for you to have factual information regarding our food service operation, which we are committed to ensuring is the best available.</p>

<p>The items below in bold and quotation marks were excerpts taken from the letter. Following each excerpt is factual information about our food service operation.</p>

<p>“Incredibly, since the beginning of the new semester at the Naval Academy, the school has again run out of food for the midshipmen, at least three times in two weeks.”</p>

<p>There were no reported shortages of food during the period in question in the letter to the editor. Since addressing food issues in the fall term, there are always food carts with additional quantities of food at the stand-by if any table indicates more food items are needed. Our food service staff is continuously monitoring the dining facility and visibly available to ensure each table is taken care of. In addition to having the additional quantities of food available, there has been leftover food following all meals during the period in question. Monitoring the amount of leftover food is always done to help measure usage.</p>


<p>“I hear weekly how low the quality of food is. While educational institutions all over this country can serve food of satisfactory in quantity and quality, the academy is not even close.”</p>

<p>Recent feedback suggests that the vast majority of Midshipmen are satisfied with the food served. Our menu items are consistent with those served at other service academies. What sets the Naval Academy apart from most educational institutions is the fact we serve our entire student body family style, simultaneously. While feeding more than 4,000 people at a single sitting presents a complex challenge, it allows the Midshipmen to be together and interact in small-unit leadership environment.</p>


<p>“There’s very little protein in the casserole-type dinners served for most evening meals. It’s starch and sauces constantly. There are no choices and the salad bar has been cancelled this entire year.”</p>

<p>We provide nutritious and balanced meals for the Brigade. During the period in question in the letter to the editor, the following meals were served:</p>

<p>6 Jan:</p>

<p>Back to School Special Meal -- Assorted Cheese, Fruits and Nuts, Assorted Party Crackers, Bahama Vegetables, Fried Shrimp, Cocktail Sauce, Grilled Ribeye Steaks, Mashed Potatoes, Mushroom Sauce, Butter Pat, Cherry Cobbler, Sparkling Grape Juice, Lemonade, Ice tea, Milk (Chocolate /2%/Skim) and Starbuck’s Coffee.</p>


<p>Mandarin Orange Salad, Assorted Salad Dressing, Teriyaki Chicken, Brown Rice, Oriental Vegetables, Vegetable Spring Rolls, Sweet and Sour Sauce, Assorted Cream Pie, Wildberry Beverage, Milk (2% and Skim) and Starbuck’s Coffee.</p>

<p>8 Jan:</p>

<p>California Pasta Salad, Chili Con Carne, Steamed Rice, Shredded Cheese, Chopped Onions, Cornbread, Apple Turnover, Butter Pats, Punch Sport Drink and Milk (2% and Skim).</p>


<p>“Many meals consist of pre-packaged processed foods one would get out of a vending machine. They are heated inside plastic packaging, posing a toxic threat from dioxin gas.”</p>

<p>We follow only accepted standards in the food service and hospitality industry. Contrary to what was printed in the letter to the editor, the prepackaged items we serve are cooked in the Mylar bag they come in, which is an industry standard food-safe material. These are popular food items and are cooked and served in the package so they retain their heat for consumption.</p>

<p>“The “protein bar” spoken of after complaints in September ceased to exist in October.”</p>

<p>The “Protein Bar” remains in use and is in fact very popular with Midshipmen. It is available during all meals and consists of: Tuna, Cottage Cheese, Garbanzo Beans, Hard Boiled Eggs, Chilled Pineapple Slices, Individual Yogurts, Individual Apple Sauce and at times Turkey or Roast Beef.</p>


<p>“They eat what’s served or they don’t eat. The snack and grill bar is off limits during the week, even for a drink.”</p>

<p>There are two snack bars. The snack bar inside Bancroft Hall is open to upper class Midshipmen from 7:15 to 11 PM, Sunday through Friday. The Drydock Restaurant in Dahlgren Hall is open to ALL midshipmen for carryout service from 7:15 to 11 PM each night.</p>


<p>“The ground meat is labeled Grade D, for prisons and the military.”</p>

<p>Ground beef is not graded on such a scale, which you might find with other beef, such as steak. In stead, ground beef is categorized by the lean to fat ratio. The ground beef used at the Academy is typically 81% lean meat to 19% fat.</p>


<p>“There’s no accountability. Midshipmen protest isn’t an option due to fear of reprisals.”</p>

<p>We take any suggestions of reprisals very seriously. There have not been any reports of Midshipmen fearing reprisals for providing feedback or making suggestions regarding our food service. In fact, Midshipmen play an active role in the planning and development of future menus based on direct feedback and input on each meal we serve.</p>

<p>“As a taxpaying citizen and a parent, I respectfully ask the leadership to provide meals of an adequate quantity and quality for our Midshipmen, with a daily option salad bar to meet current nutritional standards.”</p>

<p>All meals meet the current nutritional standards. We utilize the expertise of Dr. Laura Nihan, PhD, Staff Dietician.</p>


<p>We understand that food is an important topic to all parents. The Academy takes great care in planning and providing meals for the 4300 men and women who comprise the Brigade of Midshipmen. Our food service staff – 235 talented and dedicated professionals - strives to serve a variety of creative, satisfying and nutritious meals to midshipmen who - like most young men and women - expect nothing less. Rest assured that we care as much as you about the quality and quantity of food available to your midshipman. </p>

<p>Thank you,</p>

<p>Captain Margaret D. Klein</p>

<p>United States Navy</p>

<p>Commandant of Midshipmen</p>