The COVID-19 pandemic, supply-chain bottlenecks and inflation are complicating communal meals and causing prices to skyrocket for staples like turkey and dressing, but Pentagon officials insist they will once again provide a Thanksgiving bounty to those serving in uniform around the globe.
For more than 50 years, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) has been providing traditional Thanksgiving food to mess halls, field kitchens and ship galleys to any location around the world where U.S. forces are deployed.
“Thanksgiving is one of the most important meals we work on all year,” said Army Col. Larry Dean, director of the subsistence supply chain for DLA’s troop support branch. “Our entire team works on it for months and we don’t stop until the big day.”
This year, the Department of Defense shipped out more than 5,700 whole turkeys and almost 60,000 pounds of roasted turkeys. More than 40,000 pounds of shrimp and almost 70,000 pounds of pies and cakes will be laid out for hungry military personnel.
The DLA works with regional vendors — both domestic and international — to ensure that military cooks have the bird, sides and desserts to prepare festive holiday meals for troops away from home this Thanksgiving, military officials said. While COVID-19 remains a challenge for the Pentagon, officials say the restrictions of dining together will be far less arduous this year.
This Thanksgiving comes as the military services are facing important deadlines to carry out, Secretary Lloyd Austin’s order mandating all Defense Department civilian and military personnel be vaccinated against the deadly virus.
“The holiday meal should look more normal this year, with in-person dining returning in many locations,” said Army Brig. Gen. Eric Shirley, DLA troop-support commander.
The average cost of the classic Thanksgiving feast for 10 people this year is more than $53 dollars, a 14% increase from last year’s average of about $47, Farm Bureau officials say. The average price for a turkey — the centerpiece on most Thanksgiving tables — is up almost 25% from 2020, according to the Farm Bureau, the agriculture industry trade group.
“We are currently dealing with the same supply issues that the commercial industry is dealing with,” said Robin Whaley, chief of customer operations for DLA’s domestic troop-support mission. “We have been working with our vendors well in advance of the holiday to reduce chances that the necessary items won’t be available on the big day.”