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Civilians take over Yuma chow hall;A bigger budget could bring better food

By Lance Cpl. Kevin Paul | | October 17, 2002

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Most Marines involved in their daily grind of shower, chow, work, chow, work and liberty might not know it, but things have changed at the station enlisted dining facility.

Superior Services Inc. took over the management of the mess hall Oct. 1.

The company is now responsible for satisfying the huge appetites of Marines on the West Coast, including Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif.

The company was subcontracted by Sodexho, who the Marine Corps awarded the management contract to for all the mess halls in the continental United States beginning Oct. 1.

"Sodexho didn't have enough people to take care of these Marine Corps bases," said Ann Stainbrook, the new mess hall manager. "So, they subcontracted to our company, SSI. They're a big multi-million dollar company and they had to subcontract because they don't have the resources to manage the mess halls on a day-to-day basis."

Established in 1986, SSI provides management services to a variety of corporate and government dining facilities and correctional food services. Before the new business venture, the company served two million meals annually.

According to Gunnery Sgt. Earl E. Cooley, staff non-commissioned officer-in-charge at the mess hall, the mission of the mess hall hasn't changed since being taken over by civilians.

"They're responsible for the keys being turned in at night, the finances, inventory, so a lot of the responsibilities have shifted," said Cooley. "But, I can focus on the Marines now that I don't have to worry about all those other things."

The Marines working in the mess hall are now only responsible for preparing the food every day while the civilians handle all other daily operations.

Additionally, SSI has hired more people to man the mess hall, which freed up some of the Marines working in food service to move into cook positions, making the staff more ready to meet the task of feeding Marines on station, especially during the Weapons and Tactics Instructor course.

Working for the civilians has had some advantages, said Cooley. During the last month, the mess hall has added more condiments like ketchup and steak sauce to the tables to spice up the foods and added more desserts to the menu.

"I did that before I gave up the reigns," said Cooley. "Under the Marine Corps, we were under a stringent budget. I was working with $6.20 a day, whereas they're working with $6.50 earned with each plate. If you multiply that by three meals you get $19.50 earned off each Marine dining at the mess hall."

"That has nothing to do with us," said Stainbrook. "He's doing his own thing, and he's doing a good job."

However, those won't be the final changes for the mess hall.

"There's a new 28-day menu," said Stainbrook. "We've added certain items like salmon, collard greens, but we're open to suggestions. There's a comment board outside   all they have to do is fill it out, and we'll see what's applicable."

Marines might not notice the change in the mess hall's management, but they might just notice their growing bellies if Stainbrook has her way.

"I requested a donut machine," said Stainbrook. "There's nothing like having a fresh donut in the morning."

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