'Disgusting': Navy admits food served to quarantined sailors was subpar, acts to fix menu

Brass promise 'better quality meals' following Just the News inquiries about complaints of unsightly, unsavory fare at Virginia base.

A meal served to sailors in quarantine
A meal served to sailors in quarantine
Courtesy photo
Last Updated:
May 19, 2020 - 4:46pm

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It wasn’t a mutiny, but the term “revolting” comes into play — and the Navy agrees that the quarantined sailors who refused to eat their food at one major U.S. Navy base deserve better. 

The sailors complained earlier this month to their commanders, and got word to Just the News, that the lockdown food at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia was so awful that shipmates asked the Naval Inspector General to intervene.

In response to questions posed by Just the News, the Navy agreed that the complaints were justified.

“Between the preparation and delivery, the base acknowledges that the content and appearance of food was not up to standards,” Naval Station Norfolk spokesperson Kelly Wirfel said.  

The Navy did not keel-haul the offenders, but noted who they were.

"Naval Station Norfolk’s galley is responsible for preparing the food, and the sailors’ commands are responsible for the delivery,” Wirfel said.

The food is delivered at mealtime inside styrofoam boxes containing what the sailors said were minuscule portions of “disgusting” fare such as brown-tinged strips of cabbage, recycled rice, pre-packaged pickings, and servings of meat.

“It’s trash,” one sailor said.

The meal-recipients are in the Navy Reserve, and are in COVID-19 isolation at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia. 

Reservists who deploy overseas come home via Norfolk when returning to the United States, a Pentagon source told Just the News. During the pandemic, the reservists are placed as a matter of course under two-week quarantine, on what the Navy calls Restriction of Movement (ROM) status. They live inside barracks, where meals are brought to them. 

Navy sources say several admirals and Naval Installations Command Force Master Chief Steven Timmons have been told about the food issues. 

The complaints eventually reached the right people — and brought results. 

“Since the issue was brought to leadership's attention, the galley is ensuring better quality meals are being prepared for our ROM personnel,” Wirfel said. “Additionally, galley personnel are paying strict attention to dietary restrictions such as vegetarians and any food allergy listed in their roster.” 

The objectionable meals were shown to Just the News in photographs.

One photo depicted what appeared to be strips of speckled cabbage, with a small portion of browned meat, and a scoop of white rice. Another showed a commercially packaged burrito, still inside its wrapper, with a scoop of white rice. Yet another showed slabs of what appeared to be poultry, covered in white rice, and served with curly fries and a commercially prepared crust-free peanut butter and jelly sandwich, still in its wrapper.

The photos also were posted on unofficial media sites for Navy personnel. 

On one site, members reacted with scathing commentary.

“Are you in quarantine or at Leavenworth?” wrote one person.

“Ugh. Obviously unsat [unsatisfactory],” wrote another. “Hopefully the base FSO [food services officer] gets a swift kick in the ass and turns things around."

“Welcome home, shipmates,” wrote one other. “Your nation thanks you for your service.”

A 2010 food services manual for Naval Supply Systems Command describes the process for choosing menus. 

“Many factors effect the menu planner’s choice of foods for the menu: nutritional requirements, food costs, availability of supplies/equipment, skill level of galley personnel and manning levels,” the manual states.

Sailors did not provide photographs nor commentary on the revised offerings.