More Ham, Sweet Potatoes and Desserts: The Food US Troops Will Devour This Thanksgiving

Sailor celebrates thanksgiving onboard USS Bataan
Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Angela Paz, assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5), celebrates thanksgiving onboard Bataan, Nov. 28, 2019 (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kathryn E. Macdonald)

U.S. troops traditionally eat more roast beef on Thanksgiving than any other entrée, but this year they'll get double the ham and sweet potatoes and three times the desserts than last year -- increases that signal the celebration "should look more normal" than it did in 2020, according to Defense Department officials.

The Defense Logistics Agency, or DLA, is dispatching 192 tons of holiday food to dining facilities, ship galleys and field kitchens in the U.S. and around the world this year, up 47% from last year's pandemic provisions.

For the first time in 20 years, the DLA will not be shipping holiday rations to Afghanistan.

This year the menu, according to the agency, will include 99,187 pounds of roast beef, up from 74,000 last year, and 59,666 pounds of roast turkey, up from 51,000.

It also will include 51,994 pounds of ham -- nearly 31,000 more than was shipped last year.

"The holiday meal should look more normal this year, with in-person dining returning in many locations," Army Brig. Gen. Eric Shirley, commander of DLA Troop Support, said in a press release. "I am so proud of the workforce here at Troop Support. They work tirelessly for months to make sure this meal happens."

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Supply chain issues have made getting the holiday meals to service members trickier this year, according to the DLA, but officials say the food should be there in time for the feasts.

"We are currently dealing with the same supply issues that the commercial industry is dealing with," said Robin Whaley, chief of customer operations for Troop Support's Subsistence in the continental United States. "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."

The DLA oversees the annual holiday meal shipments and is responsible for distributing supplies to Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Defense Department installations worldwide.

Planning for this Thanksgiving began in early March -- back when the pandemic seemed to be in retreat in the U.S., before the Delta variant struck and labor shortages and global shipping slowdowns had much of an impact on the supply chain.

Defense officials have relied heavily on their relationships with vendors and partner agencies to ensure that troops get a taste of home this week, they said.

"Thanksgiving is one of the most important meals we work on all year," said Col. Larry Dean, director of the Subsistence supply chain at DLA Troop Support. "As a proud member of the Army who has enjoyed these meals when I could not be home with my family, it means so much to have that taste of home on Thanksgiving when you can't be there."

This year, service members with a sweet tooth will be able to gorge themselves on 68,465 pounds of cakes and pies, triple what was shipped last year.

They also will be sent:

  • 43,767 pounds of shrimp, down from 67,000 in 2020
  • 38,400 pounds of sweet potatoes, more than double last year's total
  • 23,461 gallons of eggnog, up from 7,000

The supplies have been sent to chow halls in the U.S., as well as dining facilities for troops in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, South Korea, Japan, Qatar, the Philippines, Guam, Singapore and elsewhere.

-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.

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