Every morning, before the sun has risen from the eastern skies over Houston, a team of Veteran cooks and food service workers are hard at work at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center prepping a morning meal.
Massive ovens, giant spatulas, large walk-in refrigerators and sub-zero freezers, dry goods storage, and even self-driving robots are all a part of a large-scale daily production to feed Houston’s Veteran inpatients every single day from sun-up until sundown
“As a Veteran, I really like helping other Veterans,” said Army Veteran Jamel Kelly. Nutrition and Food Service employees, many of whom are Veterans, are here every day to make sure our 400 Veteran inpatients are well-nourished, no matter if it’s a holiday, a weekend, or a hurricane.
By the numbers:
• More than 400 meals are served per mealtime equaling at least 1,200 meals per day
• About 162 pounds of chicken is consumed each week
• At least 30 pounds of bacon is used when served
• It takes about seven hours to prep and cook, then plate and serve, each meal service
• Hamburgers are Veterans’ most popular menu item
During regular operations, the logistics and planning involved to ensure the expansive hospital kitchen runs smoothly take quite a bit of effort. Due to staffing and supply shortages caused by the pandemic, Donald Williams Sr., Chief, Food Production and Service, says he has had to get creative to make sure there are no disruptions in food service.
“Sometimes we have to call a supplier and nudge them a bit, so they don’t shortchange us on delivering what they’re obligated to,” said Williams, a Navy Veteran himself. While in the Navy, Williams learned to run food service operations aboard vessels on the open seas. “It is similar where we have to really plan ahead so that there is never a shortage, and everyone is always fed,” he said.
According to Stacy Brouwer, Food Service Systems Manager, when employees who have served in the military serve their fellow Veterans it creates pride in their job.
“What makes us unique is we have Veterans helping to feed Veterans, and they’re able to quickly bond with each other and they treat each other like family,” she said. “We are committed to providing our Veterans quality meals with outstanding customer service.”