CAMP BUTLER, Japan - The food and groceries commonly found in Japan and the United States vary greatly and represent a cultural difference. While some service members and their families here on Okinawa prefer to shop in the local community, others prefer the familiarity of U.S.-style food and grocery shopping.
The Defense Commissary Agency offers American-style grocery stores with both host nation and American-style food and groceries. These stores are available to service members and anyone possessing a valid overseas Department of Defense identification card.
“The commissaries are (on base), so I don’t have to go out in town,” said Cpl. Choua P. Vang, a data network specialist for Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, Marine Corps Installations Pacific. “It is great because it gives you a feeling of home. We have stores like Walmart back home, and this is the closest thing we have to a grocery store like those.”
The commissary serves its customers on base by providing a wide variety of food at affordable prices.
“It’s a lot cheaper to shop at the commissary,” said Vang. “For folks who get commuted rations instead of a meal card, it is much better for them financially. They are not going to spend as much money eating fast-food because they can make their own food.”
Customers save more than 30 percent by shopping at the commissary, according to John Zaher, the store director of the Camp Foster commissary. The savings are even more in overseas locations such as Okinawa, where prices outside the gate are usually higher. Commissaries sell items at prices set just high enough to recover item cost, with no profit or extra cost added to the price.
Along with providing food to service members in Okinawa, the commissaries also stay involved within the base communities. The commissaries support the U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa, Naval Hospital Health Promotions, and Marine Corps Community Services Wellness Offices by providing nutritional education and health information. The commissaries are also involved in a variety of USO and Single Marine Program events.
“We work regularly with military service organizations to make living on Okinawa a great overseas experience,” said Zaher. “Twice a year, we sponsor a recreational event with the Single Marine Program to help young military members learn about their commissary and thank them for their service. We have a lot of fun at these events, and the commissary vendors provide all the food and prizes for the games.”
Through its variety of food, savings and community services, the commissaries provide an improved quality of life to service members and their families living in Okinawa.
“The commissary locations and their convenient hours make it easy for service members and their families to shop here,” said Zaher. “The commissary stocks products from the U.S. not available in off base stores. The convenience and familiarity of these products from home can be a great comfort to a family living overseas.”