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Healthy foods add spice to life

  • Published
  • By By Debbie Aragon
  • AFIMSC Public Affairs

SAN ANTONIO -- As part of its mission to deliver healthy food options to Airmen and families across the Air Force, the Air Force Services Center, in partnership with the Culinary Institute of America San Antonio, held its first techniques for healthy cooking class June 3-7 focused on nonappropriated fund food and beverage chefs and cooks. 

The class, for 16 NAF employees from across the Air Force, is designed to educate attendees on the benefits of healthy ingredients like plants and legumes, proper spicing and appropriate healthy cooking techniques.

“We partner with CIA for a variety of classes and we selected its healthy cooking course because it fits right in with our healthy food initiative and we’re looking for ways for our Airmen to have a variety of healthier dining options across our installations,” said Jonathan Boyd, branch chief for NAF food and beverage operations at AFSVC. “Not every Airmen eats in the dining facility … we need to offer healthy options at our NAF food service facilities as well.”

The inaugural class included students from community centers, youth centers and base clubs, allowing the Air Force to deliver flavorful, healthy meals to Airmen and their family members.

“We want to start (our Air Force kids) right, picking healthy food options and knowing what’s good for them,” Boyd said, “and not only having that at our child development centers but at places like our bowling centers, community centers and other NAF food and beverage operations.” 

In adding healthy options across its installations, the Air Force is following the sign of the times, said CIA Chef Hinnerk von Bargen, instructor for the course.

What is termed institutional food service – things like military dining, college campus feeding operations and hospital food delivery – is changing, von Bargen said.

“There’s a growing awareness of eating health conscious – being ‘plant forward,’” von Bargen said, “and the Air Force is right on trend to look at what else is out there in the industry.

“Tofu, no!” was the way Patricia Hall, a cook at the Panther Den community center at Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, viewed the soybean-based product before attending the recent CIA course.

“Now, I can eat it,” Hall said, “this course has really opened my mind to try new things and offer them to my customers. Now I see that (plant-based foods) can taste good and that they’re really good for you … I plan to put what I’ve learned to good use.”

Although things are changing at dining facilities and NAF food operations, don’t expect plants and legumes to be the only things offered.

“Variety is the spice of life,” Boyd said. “It’s about having a balanced diet. Pick some of those meatless items that are offered from time to time and other healthy options … you can have a little of both worlds.”