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Feeding the Force: Dining facilities alter operations during pandemic

The Monarch Dining Facility is open for lunch April 24, 2020, at Travis Air Force Base, California. The Monarch is offering to-go meals for service members only due to the coronavirus pandemic. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman)

The Monarch Dining Facility is open for lunch April 24, 2020, at Travis Air Force Base, California. The Monarch is offering to-go meals for service members only due to the coronavirus pandemic. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Layla Delamater, 60th Force Support Squadron food services apprentice, monitors entry into the Monarch Dining Facility April 24, 2020, at Travis Air Force Base, California. The facility is now only open to service members and requires patrons to wear masks and remain at least six feet apart while inside. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Layla Delamater, 60th Force Support Squadron food services apprentice, monitors entry into the Monarch Dining Facility April 24, 2020, at Travis Air Force Base, California. The facility is now only open to service members and requires patrons to wear masks and remain at least six feet apart while inside. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jacob Christian, left, 860th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron C-17 Globemaster III crew chief, waits for his food as Senior Airman Marlon Payumo, 60th Force Support Squadron fitness specialist, scoops rice into a to-go box during the lunch service at the Monarch Dining Facility April 24, 2020, at Travis Air Force Base, California. The Monarch is offering to-go meals to service members only due to the coronavirus pandemic. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jacob Christian, left, 860th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron C-17 Globemaster III crew chief, waits for his food as Senior Airman Marlon Payumo, 60th Force Support Squadron fitness specialist, scoops rice into a to-go box during the lunch service at the Monarch Dining Facility April 24, 2020, at Travis Air Force Base, California. The Monarch is offering to-go meals to service members only due to the coronavirus pandemic. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman)

U.S. Airmen place their lunch orders inside the Monarch Dining Facility April 24, 2020, at Travis Air Force Base, California. The Monarch is offering to-go meals to service members only due to the coronavirus pandemic. The facility is available to service members on and off duty. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman)

U.S. Airmen place their lunch orders inside the Monarch Dining Facility April 24, 2020, at Travis Air Force Base, California. The Monarch is offering to-go meals to service members only due to the coronavirus pandemic. The facility is available to service members on and off duty. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman)

Airman 1st Class Cordell Jacobs, 60th Maintenance Squadron aircraft fuel systems journeyman, waits for his food inside the Monarch Dining Facility April 24, 2020, at Travis Air Force Base, California. The Monarch has implemented procedures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus including restricting access to service members only and requiring all patrons to wear masks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman)

Airman 1st Class Cordell Jacobs, 60th Maintenance Squadron aircraft fuel systems journeyman, waits for his food inside the Monarch Dining Facility April 24, 2020, at Travis Air Force Base, California. The Monarch has implemented procedures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus including restricting access to service members only and requiring all patrons to wear masks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Derek Elliot, 60th Logistics Readiness Squadron material management specialist, grabs his lunch inside the Monarch Dining Facility April 24, 2020, at Travis Air Force Base, California. The Monarch is offering to-go meals to service members only due to the coronavirus pandemic. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Derek Elliot, 60th Logistics Readiness Squadron material management specialist, grabs his lunch inside the Monarch Dining Facility April 24, 2020, at Travis Air Force Base, California. The Monarch is offering to-go meals to service members only due to the coronavirus pandemic. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman)

U.S. Airmen maintain physical distancing during the lunch service inside the Monarch Dining Facility April 24, 2020, at Travis Air Force Base, California. The Monarch is offering to-go meals to service members only due to the coronavirus pandemic. While inside the Monarch, all patrons must maintain at least six feet of separation from one another. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman)

U.S. Airmen maintain physical distancing during the lunch service inside the Monarch Dining Facility April 24, 2020, at Travis Air Force Base, California. The Monarch is offering to-go meals to service members only due to the coronavirus pandemic. While inside the Monarch, all patrons must maintain at least six feet of separation from one another. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman)

Tessie Santos, Aramark Services cook, serves lunch to an Airman April 24, 2020, inside the Monarch Dining Facility at Travis Air Force Base, California. The Monarch has implemented procedures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus including restricting access to service members only and requiring all patrons to wear masks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman)

Tessie Santos, Aramark Services cook, serves lunch to an Airman April 24, 2020, inside the Monarch Dining Facility at Travis Air Force Base, California. The Monarch has implemented procedures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus including restricting access to service members only and requiring all patrons to wear masks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman)

The dining room inside the Monarch Dining Facility is closed April 24, 2020, at Travis Air Force Base, California. The Monarch is offering to-go meals to service members only due to the coronavirus pandemic. Both the facility’s dining rooms are closed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman)

The dining room inside the Monarch Dining Facility is closed April 24, 2020, at Travis Air Force Base, California. The Monarch is offering to-go meals to service members only due to the coronavirus pandemic. Both the facility’s dining rooms are closed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman)

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Signs on the doors inform people they must wear a mask or face covering to enter. Markings on the floors remind customers that they must remain six feet apart inside the Monarch and David Grant USAF Medical Center dining facilities at Travis AFB.

Enjoying conversation during breakfast or lunch in one of the dining rooms is not an option. All meals are to-go only.

The coronavirus pandemic has presented a number of challenges to the U.S. military, including providing service members with nutritious meals while reducing the potential spread of the virus.

“It’s important we take care of everyone, so they can do their mission,” said Tech. Sgt. Lamesha Meeks, 60th Force Support Squadron Monarch Dining Facility assistant manager. “Whether that’s on the flight line, in the hospital, security forces or elsewhere, all of our service members are important to ensuring mission success.”

Since March 16, the Monarch and the DGMC dining facilities have been open for carry-out services only, and between the two establishments, they serve an average of 950 customers a day.

In order to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, both dining facilities implemented procedures to ensure the safety of staff and customers. In addition to signs and markings  reminding customers to practice physical distancing, the Monarch initiated split shifts and installed protective barriers between cashiers and customers.

An Airman is also posted at the door of the Monarch for each meal to advise patrons of the requirement to wear a face covering. Upon entering, customers must wash their hands. The Monarch is also not accepting cash payments. Payment is only possible with meal cards and debit or credit cards. Both facilities are currently only open to service members.

“Our top priority is keeping people safe while continuing our mission,” Meeks said.

Service members choosing to find their nourishment at one of the dining facilities have many of the same options they did before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

“While our salad bar is closed, and service members can no longer dine in, we offer a variety of pre-packaged items including sandwiches and salads,” said Senior Airman Halle Joppy, 60th FSS food service shift leader. “Our main line and grill are also open offering a number of meat, vegetable and carbohydrate options including turkey burgers, grilled chicken entrees and popular items like chicken tenders or french fries.”

Additionally, the Monarch beefed up its staff to enable the implementation of split shifts. After the Travis Fitness Center closed March 15 to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the fitness center team went to work at the DFAC.

“We now have nearly 100 people working on our team including service members and civilians,” Meeks said. “The additional manning has enabled us to split into groups and limit the amount of contacts we have in the dining facility.”

While it is important to provide healthy food options for Team Travis, it is also vital to ensure the people providing the food can accomplish their mission, Meeks added.

“Some of our employees have lost family members to COVID-19,” she said. “We have implemented daily calls where our noncommissioned officers contact each team member to ensure they are OK. With the split shifts, we are able to give them time to grieve while ensuring the mission continues.”

Joppy said she is humbled to be able to support service members during such a difficult time.

“I’m grateful I’m part of a team that can provide the support our military needs,” she said. “Providing them with a hot meal can go a long way.”

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