What’s probably the biggest Thanksgiving feast in Missouri takes place at south-central Missouri’s Fort Leonard Wood military installation.

Thanksgiving meals being served at Missouri’s Fort Leonard Wood Army installation

The base provides nearly 12,000 meals during its annual Thanksgiving lunch celebration. Combined with breakfast and dinner that are served daily, close to 30,000 meals will be served throughout Thanksgiving day.

More than 7,000 pounds of turkey is required to pull off the lunch event which takes place in 12 dining halls. In addition, 1,200 pounds of shrimp, 2,000 pounds of beef and 2,000 assorted cakes and pies are required for the meals.

The base’s Food Program manager, William Moffitt, describes the annual feast as the “Super Bowl” of meals and says plans take place four to six months in advance with the installation’s prime vendor.  “They need to plan out in advance through all their sub-vendors to make sure that they can supply us,” said Moffitt. “And with that amount of food, there’s a logistics process from the companies out there that actually supply the turkeys themselves.”

More than 400 food service employees prepare the food which is then served by the base’s leadership personnel, which Moffitt says is a traditional procedure within the armed forces. “All the leadership, all the commanders for Sergeant, Sergeant Majors, they’ll actually do the serving themselves, Moffitt said. “The food service contractor prepares all the food, but all the leadership will serve it to the junior individuals.”

Because of the scheduling of military personnel, one of the dining halls served its Thanksgiving meals for the Noncommissioned Officer Academy on Tuesday. The other 12 dining facilities for various regiments and battalions as well as Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps detachments at the Army base serve the meal mostly simultaneously between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Thursday.

The installation’s 400 contract food workers spend several days preparing the meals with the process of thawing the turkey taking three days by itself. Cooking the turkeys starts between 1 and 2 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day.

The 2018 holiday meal cost is $9.10 for all visitors, except spouses and other dependents of service members E-4 and below, who pay the discounted rate of $6.80 per person. Service members are not charged. E-4 is a military pay grade, covering Specialists and Corporals. Private and Private First Class are ranks below E-4.

Moffitt said because of the Trump administration’s Grow the Army initiative, Fort Leonard Wood has received military personnel from other installations. “We’ve received some of those for the Grow the Army because we’ve had the capability to (expand operations),” said Moffitt.

He notes Fort Leonard Wood has the largest food program in the Department of Defense, followed by bases such as Fort Jackson in South Carolina and Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

Moffitt said he’s proud to serve with the team that provided more than 11.5 million meals to military service members this year.

“It is an enjoyable day seeing everyone slow down from the high intensity of training to pause, and reflect with family and friends,” Moffitt said.  “Seeing the looks of excitement, relief, and satisfaction on the faces of
trainees and their newly found friends/battle buddies after finishing this feast is a cool sight to see.”