Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Peterson Space Observer

Dining facility food service not ‘free’

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas  —  Each day around the world more than 33,000 Air Force members on Essential Station Messing are provided a variety of entitlements through the Air Force Food & Beverage program. The Corporate Automated Foodservice Enterprise system enables the Air Force Services Activity F&B team the essential tools to track sales to help determine the types of menu items high in demand by our customers.

This new automated system allows Air Force F&B to determine trends and update menus and recipes popular within the F&B industry. The AFSVA F&B team needs to accomplish this by adhering to strict Department of Defense nutritional guidelines and ensuring monthly authorized food budgeted amounts are not exceeded while providing customers quality food options in its operations throughout the Air Force.

Master Sgt. Lathena Jones, 21st Space Wing dining facility manager, said that since the implementation of the ESM system they have had a few challenges, like educating customers on the changes, but these challenges are outweighed by the system’s benefits.

Jones stated that although portion sizes are smaller, customers who are still hungry may return for seconds while still using their meal card to cover the expense.

Airmen residing in the dorms are those primarily affected, but considering Team Pete also hosts the 302nd Airlift Wing, reservists completing weekend training are also affected by these changes. Jones said the Aragon dining facility serves 500 meals each Saturday and Sunday during unit training assembly weekends.

In addition to allowing the DFAC to run more efficiently, the ESM system significantly reduces wasted food.

“This system helps eliminate ‘plate waste,’” said Jones. “ESM also prevents people from taking excess amounts of food to stockpile their own cabinets.”

ESM typically is authorized by the unit commander to a member who resides within an assigned dormitory, and allows the member to use DoD dining facilities at “no cost.” Individuals use their common access card to validate authorized ESM entitlement. This entitlement consists of F&B items one would normally eat as a traditional meal. Typically a meal is salad, entrée, sides and a beverage or two, maybe even a dessert item. Untypical are multiple items like three or four entrées or beverages. A normal person simply doesn’t consume this amount of food in one sit-down meal period. Our Food and Beverage managers are responsible to provide this entitlement while ensuring the average cost per meal does not exceed the basic daily food allowance per meal against which they must manage their food account.

The CAFE system allows AFSVA F&B managers to track each and every transaction down to the end users guest check. When a member presents their individual CAC, they are closing that transaction against their individually tracked ESM account. Transactions are monitored through an automated process using an algorithm designed to identify possible ESM abuse. CAFE shows each members transaction; multiple beverages, entrées; consumption patterns which are questionable and quantities greater than one could typically consume on their own are monitored for abuse.

Bill Spencer, AFSVA Food Service operations chief, said “transactions are not only monitored but suspected abuses are investigated.” While AFSVA has no punitive action authority, notifications of possible abuse are sent to the member’s squadron commander. Each case is reviewed and should subsequent abuses occur, installation senior leadership is notified.

“Rarely does this ever happen . . . educating our customers and making them aware ESM is an individual entitlement and is constantly monitored usually corrects the suspected abuse on the spot,” said Spencer. ESM entitlements provide food for the individual on ESM, sharing the entitlement with others is not authorized.

AFSVA wants to provide quality meals to its ESM customers and needs to ensure customers are aware of what their entitlement consists of to allow AFSVA to stay within budget. The Air Force tries not to limit entitlements knowing Airmen want flexibility in choices and selections. Members may consume a sit-down meal and return for seconds or take a carryout meal if they are going to be away from a dining facility during a meal period. This allows AFSVA to account for each transaction as a separate meal and stay within the individual meal budget.

For more information on what AFSVA does for Airmen and their families go to www.USAFServices.com.

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