News: Parris Island’s strict food menu a recipe for nutritional Marine Corps recruit training
Story by Lance Cpl. David Bessey
PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. – Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “An army marches on its stomach.” No matter how strong or technologically advanced the military force, everyone needs to eat.
The same is true for recruits on Parris Island. Training cannot happen if recruits are malnourished or dehydrated.
Marines and civilians tasked with the depot’s food services ensure every recruit receives three meals a day to keep their bodies healthy and strong for the demanding training.
The depot serves approximately 5 million meals each year to sustain the average 6,000 recruits in training at any given time, said Master Sgt. Kinneth Bouknight, 40, the senior food service staff noncommissioned officer.
Recruits receive food that is served in three forms, which are a hot meal from a mess hall, a boxed meal or a field ration based on a company’s training schedule, said Bouknight, a native of Grand Rapids, Mich.
The hot meals form the basis of most meals served on Parris Island. Three of the four recruit mess halls operate on the same master menu, which runs on a 21-day cycle.
The portion size of each item is controlled to ensure every recruit receives a daily amount of calories, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and water needed to keep their bodies fueled throughout training.
The meals consist of five major parts, which are meats, vegetables, starches, soups and desserts. However, the meal servings can be adjusted if a recruit is a vegetarian.
“If a recruit goes through the mess hall and says they’re a vegetarian, then they may get increased servings of vegetables and starches,” said Capt. David Hunley, 35, the food service director. “They are not forced to eat meat.”
Recruits also have access to vegetarian boxed meals and field rations.
Male recruits consume approximately 3,950 calories, and females consume approximately 2,700 calories each day, said Bouknight.
The females at 4th Recruit Training Battalion are served from a different menu, because women are generally smaller and burn calories differently than men.
They are served more turkey-based products, and desserts consist of only pudding and gelatin, said Michael Smith, the 4th Recruit Training Battalion mess hall productions manager.
No food served in the mess halls is enhanced with added vitamins, minerals or chemicals other than spices for flavoring, said Joey Carles, operations manager for all mess halls on Parris Island.
Even with all this food being consumed, there are times when it isn’t enough for the rigors of recruit training.
In 2011, Parris Island began issuing protein bars to the training companies to give to their recruits after intensive training sessions.
The bars are given to recruits to combat fatigue and give an extra energy boost during physical training events exceeding 60 minutes.
While recruits must meet a certain weight to enter recruit training they must also meet the Marine Corps’ standards by the time they graduate.
Recruits whose weight needs to be managed may receive reduced calories, and recruits who need to gain weight may receive double servings at each meal, said Bouknight.
The food recruits are served has a huge impact on how their bodies strengthen in training.
“Their body is going to put on more muscle, lose fat and become leaner,” said Hunley, a native of Columbia, S.C.
Since 2002, a civilian contractor has managed every Marine Corps mess hall on the East Coast. The 2011, $1 billion, eight-year contract means recruits no longer work in mess halls like in years past.
The Marines and civilians in charge of nutrition on Parris Island devote themselves to ensuring each recruit receives nutritious food needed to sustain training.
“A recruit will never go without a meal,” said Bouknight.
This work, Parris Island’s strict food menu a recipe for nutritional Marine Corps recruit training, by Cpl David Bessey, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.