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EDITORIAL COMMENT: The Serving Line


July 2013
Training's Future at Risk

Until about May of this year, it was uncertain whether federal budget woes and the resulting military travel restrictions would scuttle the annual military foodservice awards.

Fortunately, the training opportunity unique to these traditional, well-established award programs was not interrupted this year. As it turned out, the only casualty of the budget restrictions was that some of the annual award ceremonies were cut.

These awards are neither frivolous nor trivial. They remain true to their original objectives of raising culinary standards in military food service and supporting the training of culinary specialists, while also contributing to the health, morale and readiness of service members. Then, there is the added benefit of the opportunity for the military to strengthen its partnership with vendors through the trade shows associated with the award programs.

Nonetheless, a consequence of the tight federal budget and automatic government spending cuts renders the future of these valuable training opportunities uncertain.

Oldest among these awards are the 57-year-old Air Force John L. Hennessy Awards and 55-year-old Navy Capt. Edward F. Ney, SC, USN, Memorial Awards, both of which form the foundation of programs designed to improve and recognize the quality of food service in the armed forces.

Similarly, the Army established the Philip A. Connolly Award 45 years ago to achieve the best-quality food service to supported soldier diners by improving the professionalism of foodservice personnel, providing acknowledgement for excellence in the preparation and serving of food in Army troop dining facilities, as well as adding a higher level of competition and appropriate recognition.

Today, each military branch has its own annual foodservice award program, all sharing the same purpose and objectives.

Limitations on military travel resulting from the tight federal budget threatened to interrupt the evaluation processes that select winners in each of the seven military foodservice award programs. Anticipating reduced funding, the National Restaurant Association Military Foundation (NRAMF) last year agreed to partially fund the cost of civilian travelers in some of the culinary award programs.

Until funding for these award programs is resolved, the important training and professional career experience they provide is at risk. Military food service could lose an incentive to improve performance contributing to the health, morale and readiness of service members. And, the many trade shows associated with the awards program would no longer bring military foodservice specialists together with vendors, so they can better understand what industry has to offer that can help them accomplish their mission.