Monday, 22 March 2010

British Government Feeds our Troops on the Cheap

The above is a sample of a school dinner. It costs around £1.66 to produce under the recent healthy eating promotion and pupils pay between £1.90 and £2.oo for a meal.

Below is a picture of what many soldiers have to eat daily if they are out-with their bases. At base they have food prepared by cooks.

The Ministry of Defence allows £3.45p a day for feeding a soldier three meals and of that the allowance for breakfast is 52p.

American troops receive three meals a day at a cost of almost £11 per person and the Australian, German and Canadian government all spend more to ensure its service personnel are adequately nourished.

The Australian government, which forks out £4.30 a day on meals, has vowed to increase its food spending. Their commitment includes flying in seven extra chefs to provide soldiers with more barbeque dishes and fresh vegetables.

The Mod says chefs decide menus on the day but claim the most popular dishes served to British troops are chicken curry and rice, grilled chicken breast and fillet steak with onions and mushrooms. (Wonder how often they eat fillet steak?) Officials insist the reason for the disparity in food spending is its chefs prepare different meals each day using only fresh, seasonal ingredients.

What amazes me is that the can provide balanced meals from £3.45p. Good chefs can conjure good food out of cheap ingredients, but why should our military be fed the cheapest food? Now here is the quote of the day:

A spokeswoman for the MoD said the meals it provides for its troops 'represents excellent value for money'. Who write the script for these spokespeople?. How long would she survive on a daily budget of £3.45?

Even a subsidised starter in the House of Commons restaurants costs more that that.

This is not the only major fault of the MoD. Research has shown that only 18p in the £ is spent on equipment by this vast government department. This compares to a global average among major military nations of 33p in the £. Pen-pushing receives more than equipment - 20p in the £.


John Pickworth said...

Just having a cast around to see what we give our MPs for their meals and found this:

"Currently Councillors in Scotland who have to eat meals away from their own area have the amount set by the Scottish Parliament. Their daily meal allowance is £8 for breakfast, £12 for lunch and £25 for dinner." Source: John Barrett Blog, MP for Edinburgh West

Incidentally, John's Blog is headed with this: "From 1st January 2010 this site will no longer be updated, in accordance with Parliamentary rules."?

Anyone know what that is about?

But yes, I'm not at all surprised our Westminster Warriors (and devolved delinquents) feed themselves better than those fighting real wars. Anyway, how much are sheep's eyes in Afghanistan? A whole lot less than 5 courses in Soho I shouldn't wonder.

Anonymous said...

Ref: John's comment

Perhaps MPs have been banned from having their own web sites / blogs and must be part of the official party web sites so as they do not inadvertently publish something that could be embarrassing and to ensure everything they publish is vetted to conform to party policy. Do independents escape?

subrosa said...

Morning John. I purposely didn't search round to see what politicians get in allowances as I was preserving my blood pressure but I thank you for the info.

No idea what that is about. Do hope someone know.

subrosa said...

I don't think so Lorenzo or John Harris and John Redwood wouldn't still be blogging would they? There are other MPs still at it too, just can't think of their names.

Funny that.

Richard T said...

More pertinently, ask for the subsistence allowances at the MoD; ask whether officers' meals cost more; ask about the expenses regime for the top brass. On a wider point, ask about the cost per day of meals for folk in hospital.

The beggarly levels allowed are symptomatic of the entrenched attitude of the upper levels of the Civil Service towards the lower orders. Yes, and on these things, I'm definitely a class warrior.

subrosa said...

I've just done a quick search about patient meal costs Richard. They vary among NHS Trusts.

Costs are from £38.14 a day to £6.42.

Surreptitious Evil said...

ask for the subsistence allowances at the MoD;

There are a wide variety of allowances available - from refunds where you have had to pay for an on-base meal you were entitled to for free or where you have missed a meal you were forced to pay for - through to refunds of actual expenditure where you eat a meal away from home or base AND you could not eat at a MOD establishment. Often, the rules for the allowances are so complicated and we no longer have the pay clerks whose job it was to understand them, that soldiers fail to claim their entitlements.

About the only time these are anything approaching generous (i.e. the Meals Out allowance when I am on a late EasyJet flight and miss dinner in the mess does not completely cover a Big Mac Meal - so hardly Michelin stars there) is where the MOD stick you in a hotel and you eat in the hotel restaurant - and that is actual receipted expenditure ('actuals') only. And as the basic standard, rank regardless, is now 3*, once again we aren't partying it up at public expense.

The values for all of these (apart, obviously, from 'actuals') are published as part of the annual pay and allowances review process.

ask whether officers' meals cost more;

The MOD supplied budget for officers' meals is the same as for all ranks (except people in basic training who get, whether officer or soldier, the same higher allowance). Actually, officers' lunch and dinner may cost the officer more (living in) - breakfast is fairly standard - but the allowances (away from base) are the same. Living in officers have generally paid a higher rate of mess subscriptions than in other messes, and, of course, no subs in the ORs cookhouse - this is money straight to the food contractor or, in a few lucky places, to the military chefs. This is historical and is disappearing with PAYD and the 'core meal'.

On Ops it is all-ranks messing when you are not in field conditions.

ask about the expenses regime for the top brass.

About the only difference they (military) get is a small entertaining allowance - an entirely nominal allowance in the last year.

Back to the main article. Frankly - I don't know how much compo costs on a per-day basis but long-term storage food which can, if necessary, be eaten cold, is never going to be gourmet.

On the on-ops rations - there was a noticeable decline in quality when the US took over the contract in Basrah. This may have been because they were Southern states based - too much "deep fried everything" even for a Jock like me.

Having said all of that, this is not new. It has been a standing joke for many years that the budget got more money to feed a MOD police or service dog than it got to feed a soldier.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

You may be interested to know the budgets mentioned above are all higher than many residential homes allow for their elderly residents.

CrazyDaisy said...

S Evil has said it all. SR Iam in a position where I ensure every tax payers pound counts. Whether it's subs allowance or renting equipment I am not pissing it away like MPs rest assured!


subrosa said...

Evil thanks for taking all that trouble. Things haven't changed then, still the same nonsense and so much red tape that, as you say, few bother to claim.

I did mean to say to Richard that deployed troops all receive the same food allowance regardless of rank.

Officers resident in the mess do pay more than other ranks for their messing. As you say most messes now have contracted out food services which certainly has lowered the quality.

subrosa said...

That's a disgrace RA. There ought to be a required minimum. I've always said that. Food is the first thing to be trimmed in private care. I remember a voluntary stint I did for a few months. My duty was 6 - 10pm after work a few nights a week.

One standard packet of Rich Tea was left in the kitchen for 54 residents. That was to last them until breakfast at 8.30am. Their last meal was 4.30 and consisted of sandwiches and a sliver of bought-in cake.

I complained bitterly to the owner (I could do that because he wasn't paying me) and he told me it was none of my business but the elderly didn't eat much.

You won't be surprised to know that, if I'd given that packet of biscuits to a group of men who used to sit in the corner, it would have been devoured before I left the room.

Food was not permitted in residents' rooms.

subrosa said...

CD, if I thought for a moment you were then I'd be down there with my claymore.

The military personnel I know CD are all very careful with expenditure. Many are regularly out of pocket too because they don't have the time to claim small amounts.

That doesn't seem to happen to politicians does it?

The real Pete Knight said...

Rat Packs aside, I was always impressed with how well the Mobile Catering Support Unit (MCSU) provided for us in the field. I experienced their excellent service on exercise in Norway, USA and UK.

Rat Packs are a different matter, the latest versions are compiled to be longer lasting, lighter weight and offer all the nutrition our troops need on a daily basis. What they fail to offer if palatability, flavour and a pleasurable experience. We always used to carry a packet of curry powder to add some flavour to our RAT Pack meals.

subrosa said...

I've heard about MCSU being excellent Pete and also the curry powder for compo rations.

What I would like to see is a better standard across the board.

Surreptitious Evil said...

Just to put some figures to the rant now I've found them from a non MOD source:

MOD food allowance rates (if you are buying it yourself but would otherwise either be living at home or entitled to service messing) are between £8 (Meals out) and £27 (Day subsistence) a day. This is not extravagant and there is no rank variation. (To be honest, I have just paid 15,000 hungarian forint for my company's share of a group meal, 2 of us from the 5 eating - that's just over £51 according to the FT, so probably both persons' full day allowance once you take forex charges into account if I was currently serving - for dinner only. Anything else would be paid by the service person - and, if you got breakfast, for example, at your hotel, you would get a reduced rate of subs.)

"Meals out" allowance - if I had to buy myself food while not being away for a full day - under £4 for my 'main meal' - under £8 if I have to feed myself for the day.

The only military allowance I could find that has a rank component (rather than a role component) is Lodging Allowance - the difference between the top and bottom rank ratings (ie General vs Private) is somewhere from 0 to nearly 15%, with the exception of London where the Private's rate exceeds that available to Air Chief Marshals anywhere else in the country but the banding can be as much as an extra 40%.

There is also a good economic reason why long-term storable food - whether for the military or for disaster relief - doesn't taste too nice. If it does, it simply walks out of the warehouses ...

I would also note that the latest compo is available in vegetarian, vegan, halal, and kosher (I don't think there are gluten-free versions yet but we just need to wait for the ECHR case ...) as well as 'British' and "Gurkha' and includes things like little bottles of Tabasco (learned from the US MREs which are completely inedible without significant seasoning!)

subrosa said...

Excellent research Evil. Can I adopt you permanently as my researcher?

Thanks, that info will come in very handy in the future I'm sure.

John said...

Don't know about things now but it used to be that the entitlement for spending on feeding Army dogs was more than was allowed for it's handler and other soldiers. Our meat was measured by weight with the bone in, their with bone out.
Result - handlers dined exclusively on steak and dogs developed taste for tinned corned beef.

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