SAF Chief Supply Officer Reassures Readers That Cookhouse Meals Are Carefully Planned

On 27 Jan, a Straits Times Forum submission by one Madam Vicky Chong went viral with about 3,600 shares. The subject? Food wastage in the SAF cookhouse. In just under 200 words, she made these 6 points:

  1. Food servers ignore requests for less rice during BMT
  2. Large amounts of leftover rice are discarded regularly
  3. Caterer Foodfare should conduct better research on in-camp food
  4. NSFs mostly detest ladies’ fingers, eggplant, and bitter gourd vegetable dishes
  5. On morning of live-firing exercise at Pasir Laba Camp, “very spicy noodle dish” was served
  6. Food wastage should not be viewed as a “normal affair”

Reactions from netizens were a veritable rojak, with every position imaginable taken up.

A meal at a SAF cookhouse is like a plate of rojak; you never know what you’re gonna get.
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Safe to say, the opinion piece has stirred up plenty of discussion – so much so, that we might end up binning the excess.

Madam Vicky Chong’s opinion has attracted several write-in responses to the Straits Times, the latest of which coming from a pretty big shot in the SAF.

Senior Lieutenant-Colonel (SLTC) Chang Pin Chuan wrote in on 1 Feb to offer a rebuttal to Madam Chong. In his piece of mind, he reasons that cookhouse meals in SAF are actually carefully and meticulously planned.

SLTC Chang is the current Chief Supply Officer in the SAF.

Forum, diam!

SLTC Chang took care to tread carefully while traipsing around the minefield that is expressing your opinions in a Singaporean public forum.

Starting off the letter by diplomatically offering thanks to Madam Chong for writing in, he immediately got into the meat and potatoes of the issue. Here’s an overview of what he said:

  • SAF has a team of nutritionists who plan the dietary intake of servicemen
  • We will continue to inculcate lifelong healthy eating habits in their servicemen
  • SAF endeavours to keep food waste to a minimum
  • Cookhouse contractors prepare meals based on the weekly forecast of servicemen
  • We are realistic and know that not all dishes on the menu will appeal to every serviceman
  • Servicemen can provide feedback on menu choices through their commanders
  • SAF is also participating in a pilot food waste treatment project

Take it from us

Some former servicemen who read this will be familiar with the process of indentation of food for their fellow servicemen. The parade state, also known as a head count of servicemen, is taken and used to indent fresh rations (army-speak for food). This ensures that there is an adequate supply of food for every hungry serviceman.

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The ability to provide feedback on menu choices is present – in a way. When servicemen scan their 11Bs to record their consumption of their meal, they are presented with a multiple-choice survey. However, plenty of servicemen will opt to provide the best possible feedback, as favourable reviews will benefit the cookhouse workers who cook and serve the food.

Some epic responses

Naturally, this open letter has created another groundswell of discussion. Here are some of the most epic comments our fellow netizens cooked up.

One netizen provided some conjecture about certain camps boasting better food than others.

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Of course, another netizen was on hand to rudely rebuff him.

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Rather cleverly and in a matter-of-fact manner reminiscent of resident Straits Times comment troll Jeremy Sim, the first guy expertly outlined why aforementioned Rude Guy was incorrect.

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Another online denizen came up with a plan that will surely have servicemen quickly developing a newfound appreciation for fresh cooked food. We’re pretty sure the plan, if implemented, will break the Geneva Convention for human rights.


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Food waste is still a thing

The SAF, keeping true to the colour of their uniform, have implemented measures to attempt to combat the problem of food waste.

The food waste treatment project that SLTC Chang mentioned is currently in place at various army camps in Singapore. Kranji Camp II, Kranji Camp III and Maju Camp, to be exact. Food waste from these cookhouses are collected daily and driven to a recycling plant nearby at Ulu Pandan, where they are broken down with microbes and enzymes to generate biogas, which can be converted to electricity.

Of course, this only helps to alleviate the problem, not prevent it.

And as the saying goes, the prevention is better than the cure.

Hopefully, the perfect balance between nutrition and taste can be struck. After all, the servicemen need to eat. And the uncles and aunties in the cookhouses need to make a living.

Featured image from Flickr.