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EDITORIAL COMMENT: The Serving Line


August 2014
Food Manufacturers Are a Vital Voice

Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) holds roundtable meetings with subsistence industry representatives at its McNamara Headquarters complex each spring to discuss methods for reducing costs while improving warfighter support.

These meetings are held across all eight of DLA’s supply chains to assist with the goal of achieving $13 billion in cost savings by 2019 on annual purchases of supplies that support warfighters.

Participation in discussions regarding foodservice support perhaps overlooks a vital voice by not involving the food manufacturing industry, and should be expanded to include that missing link.

Reports from the Research and Development Associates for Military Food and Packaging (R&DA) 68th Spring Meeting & Exhibition suggest that food manufacturers are concerned by DLA Troop Support’s plans to consolidate subsistence purchasing outside the continental United States (OCONUS).

With DLA Troop Support reviewing its purchasing process with the goal of lowering the cost of annual subsistence sales, the ideas coming from the Captains of Industry meetings are based on discussions with 14 subsistence providers (seven overseas and seven stateside prime vendors) invited by the agency to the McNamara Headquarters in March 2012.

DLA Troop Support studied several of the recommendations that came out of that initial Captains of Industry discussion. One initiative completed since the April 2013 meeting is catalog streamlining, through which subsistence officials worked with customers to reduce the number of line items available.

Changes taking place within military food service are familiar to everyone, from prime vendors, distributors and manufacturers on down to the dining facility manager and service member eating there.

The Healthy Base Initiative, Go for Green and cost reductions are changing the way meals are delivered, and are all front and center with DLA and the services.

Who is in a better position to weigh in on how to accomplish these goals than the manufacturers who supply the food to commercial, non-commercial, business and industry, college and university, and K-12 operations?

The endgame is to deliver healthy meals that servicemen and women will enjoy, in the right environment and at the lowest possible cost.

DLA Troop Support is hosting a Captains of Industry meeting with suppliers this month with an agenda devoted to subsistence national contracts and the concerns of businesses supplying the military.

The goal is to improve future national contract solicitations. When the event does take place, the supply chain managers at DLA should also peek at the playbooks of the food companies to see what they are doing for the college and university and K-12 segments of the foodservice market.

There, they may find that many of the challenges facing the services with respect to giving the customer a great dining experience are already being addressed, and in some cases have been solved.

These are solutions that the missing link can provide, and we applaud DLA for recognizing the manufacturers’ role in the supply chain.