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JBLM dining facility serves ‘grab and go’ lunches

Northwest Guardian

Published: 04:17PM April 30th, 2015

A dining facility, split between an area filled with tables surrounded by chairs, long metallic counters steaming with food and a kitchen, has less activity than usual. The long lines and crowded dining room has been completely replaced by “grab and go” options, portions of food in to-go containers, since April 13. Service members dining at Castles and Cannons, located on 14th and D Streets on Lewis North, now have the option to eat in the dining room or take their meal with them.

The decision to move away from the typical dining facility formula was a decision between 7th Infantry Division’s 17th Field Artillery Brigade and 555th Engineer Brigade which both provide food service personnel.

Food adviser for the 555th Engr. Bde., Chief Kareem Swaringer, said the unit had to choose between closing down the dining facility or finding an alternative. The concept of a grab and go DFAC would save time and money using plastic containers since that means no plates or silverware as well as fewer tables to clean.

“With this grab and go layout, we save money on those not cleaning or serving,” he said. “This way, we can keep it open to serve our service members and do it in a cost effective manner.”

The prices, which are set by Army regulations, and hours at Castles and Cannons remain the same. Breakfast is served Monday through Friday between 7:30 and 9 a.m., for $3.45, and lunch, for $5.55, between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Captain Bryan R. Perrenod, public affairs officer for the 555th Engr. Bde., said the quick options are available to everyone who lives and works in the area.

“This would be a great choice for those who want something quick because they are working or training over here,” he said. “We are, of course, focused on feeding our service members, but it is set up to be convenient for anyone coming through.”

After paying for their meal, diners pick up a plastic bag and drink cup. Breakfast is the usual choices of eggs, bacon, sausage, waffles, fruit and cold selections. Lunch differs daily, with the main entree being a portion chicken and mashed potatoes, steak or other hot options. For those not interested in the first meal option that changes daily, there are hamburgers, chicken wings or sandwich options further down the line. Packaged salads, dressings, desserts and fruit options are also available.

Private First Class Austin Breaux has been using the facility for several months through the change. He has no complaints about the new system.

“I think it’s great because then I can just pick up what I want fast and go back to the barracks,” he said. “The lines are a lot shorter and it’s less crowded, so far. It helps me get more time to eat during my lunch break.”

The new system is using around 10 food service personnel on a given shift, with six cooks, which may increase as more unit members return from missions. Around 700 customers make their way through the line each day. Both Perrenod and Swaringer said they are expecting the numbers to raise as more units return and people learn about the new options.

There are also plans for new equipment, such as a hot dog roaster and deli meat slicer, for more fast options.

For more information on Cannons and Castles, or other dining facilities, on JBLM, visit lewis-mcchord.army.mil/info/dfac.html.