Exclusive Chat With CW2 Officer Jeremy Patterson: Vegan Menu at Fort Sill
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jeremy Patterson (CW2 Patterson) has been making news waves for initiating the first vegan menu at a US military dining facility. Under Patterson’s lead, the Guns and Rockets Dining Facility at Fort Sill, Oklahoma now has delicious plant-based options at every meal. Patterson has been a Food Advisor for a little over 2 yrs at the 75th Field Artillery Brigade, with a total of 6 years experience as a Food Advisor and the grand total of 17 years within Food Service in the Army. Raise Vegan had the opportunity to chat exclusively with CW2 Patterson about the introduction of a plant-based menu at Fort Sill, his background as a vegan and more.
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Exclusive Chat With CW2 Officer Jeremy Patterson: Vegan Menu at Fort Sill
Here are the excerpts from the chat.
Guns and Rockets Dining facility is the first US Army Dining facility in the world offering plant-based main dishes at every meal to the credit of your work to make these changes. This is really incredible. How has the response been at Fort Sill and among diners?
Patterson: Many diners have provided positive feedback due to the fact that the dishes created by our Culinary Specialists are eye appealing and delicious not to mention healthier. There are some diners that eat a plant-based diet and they are elated because our plant-based options are clearly labeled (100% plant based).
Have you heard of other US military bases interested in also moving forward to offer plant-based/ vegan menu options at every meal and perhaps even seek your counsel in implementing that change?
Patterson: Numerous sources have contacted me including Regular Army, National Guard, Reserve, Navy, and the Airforce. We received a visit from an Airforce Food Service Team which looked to gain implementation ideas for their dining Facilities. Multiple Medical Professionals in the Army and our sister services have also contacted us for implementing strategies.
The changes at the Guns and Rockets Dining Facility there were made after a soldier submitted a comment requesting more plant-based options for religious reasons. Often we hear of vegans who choose that diet and path for animal rights issues, sustainability or health (or all of the above), but not as frequent for religion. You yourself are a longtime vegan who made the transition after watching Food Inc. correct?
Patterson: Absolutely, Food Inc. brought many of the truths to light and I now recommend this movie to most that I encounter. I do find other documentaries to be helpful and Dominion is by far my favorite to date.
Now after several years have passed, what do you share with people about your transition to veganism, the original inspiration to make the change and then the other reasons that have since developed and deepened your commitment to veganism and plant-based eating?
Patterson: I now harp on the fact that I am no better than other beings on this earth. The animals are victims of deaths that many humans believe are justified only because society deems it so. I now understand that many have and still will be oppressed because laws and religion say it’s ok, but I do not believe killing for food can be morally justified when there are so many other options. I am vegan because I choose to love all and not some and eating animals for sustainment is unnecessary.
What year did you go vegan and in addition to Food Inc. what other movies would you say are good for people interested in learning more about veganism (or the reasons people stop eating meat and dairy)?
Patterson: It’s been so long ago but I believe I went vegan some time in early 2011. I like the movies, Dominion, What the Health, and Forks Over Knives. I saw a prescreen of The Game Changers and it will be one of the greatest of all times in regards to sports medicine and Veganism.
I like to show videos of Ed Winters (aka Earthling Ed), Milton Mills, Kim Williams, and Jiddu Krishnamurti.
Once we see where we truly obtain our food, or how our earth is being neglected then we may see that we must choose the vegan lifestyle. Being vegan to me means working to save our earth for our children.
Were there any challenges in implementing a menu that included plant-based options at every meal at Guns and Rockets Dining Facility?
Patterson: Due to the fact that our command supported our initiative to provide more healthier options for our Soldiers we received little resistance so it was all manageable. Sourcing additional ingredients took time, as well as finding menu items that are desired by Soldiers.
For individuals on other US military posts and bases worldwide who wish to request more plant-based options at their dining facilities, what is your advice?
Patterson: Service members must be professionally persistent when requesting meals to eat within the DFACs and in the field. Explain to those in charge of the establishment what specifically they want and give reasonable time for the food service professionals to comply with the request. Take the concern higher within the chain of command if need be.
It’s possible that at many posts and bases, there will be no requests for more plant-based options at dining facilities as many people are still not aware of the benefits of a plant-based diet (for health, environment, sustainability). Have you thought about, for example, preparing a guidebook for other dining facilities to look at while creating plant-based options for their menus- for health and unit readiness of soldiers, dependents and all others- who eat at the dining facilities- who also contribute to the collective health of the Armed Forces?
Patterson: This is a great idea. I’ve created a brief on the Plant-Based feeing initiative that covers the basis and my team also has an SOP at the DFAC. I believe a guidebook would be very beneficial as well as the regulation changing. The Army Food Service regulation currently uses the term vegetarian and many know that vegetarian meals still could contain animal byproducts. I’d hope that in the future this Army Food Service regulation would be changed to say Vegan or Plant Based.
What are some of the most popular dishes from the vegan menu at Guns and Rockets?
Patterson: The DFAC Manager SFC Delgado offers enchiladas on Taco Tuesday’s. This is filled with quinoa black beans and veggies. Another wonderful dish that he created with his team is the Tofu Sheppard’s Pie.
What are your personal favorite dishes?
Patterson: I love a great Falafel wrap and Chana Masala.
Do you cook a lot at home and if so what are some of your personal favorite ingredients to work with?
Patterson: We cook a lot at the house and fresh beans cooked with veggies from the garden seem to be our favorite.
You were very involved helping the culinary team at Guns and Rockets learn new techniques for cooking plant-based meals. Can you tell us about some of those learning experiences and also were there any surprising moments for the team, for example learning innovative cooking and baking techniques with plant-based ingredients?
Patterson: When showing them Seitan they were blown away by the realism and awesome taste. Many Soldiers are still asking for a second class. As many Plant Based vegans know. Tofu is very versatile and they caught on to these techniques right away.
One of the biggest misperceptions about vegan food is simply about taste – many people are completely unaware of how diverse and delicious vegan food can be. What has your observation been about this as more people are introduced to plant-based meals at Fort Sill?
Patterson: Great food is loved by many. When our Culinary Specialists prepare beautiful colorful dishes many tend to gravitate towards them. We have a reputation to uphold each day. We label the plant Based entrée “the featured meal” and it must be presented in this fashion. This puts the pressure on us to deliver excellence which is exactly what is happening. We have repeat customers seeking the plant-based options week after week.
What are your thoughts on plant-based menus being considered at US Military dining facilities? Let me know in the comments below.