IDF vows better food, transportation for troops by Passover

The military said Wednesday that it is “imperative” that there be a change in the quality and experiences of troops in terms of transportation, food, medicine, equipment, and infrastructure.

 IDF 890th Paratroopers Battalion. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON UNIT)
IDF 890th Paratroopers Battalion.

Following harsh criticism about insufficient and low-quality food as well as a lack of transportation, the IDF’s Technological and Logistics Directorate has vowed to provide better food and shuttle services for troops in time for Passover.

The military said Wednesday that it is “imperative” that there be a change in the quality and experiences of troops in terms of transportation, food, medicine, equipment and infrastructure. While combat troops are a priority and will see the changes by mid-April, the changes will be across the military, beginning with food and transportation.

The plan to reform the way that the Israeli military feeds some 200,000 soldiers comes after sharp rebukes about the experiences of soldiers who draft into the people’s army, with troops having uploaded pictures of animals in kitchens, moldy salads and small portions.

In addition to numerous media reports, parents have complained that their children are not being adequately fed during their time in uniform. Even the chief of staff has said he was greatly disturbed by the food provided to troops.

The army has been struggling to deal with the cost of feeding soldiers and privatization of some of the IDF’s food services in recent decades. That has made it hard to provide quality food for troops, especially for troops in basic and advanced training.

“It’s our responsibility to provide enough food and good meals for our troops,” said a senior officer in the directorate.

As part of the plans, the IDF will increase its food budget by 25% and will add new and diverse dishes for breakfasts and dinners.

Among the dishes that will be served during breakfast are Tunisian sandwiches, baguette with shakshuka, baguette with sabih, hummus and falafel, as well as a “grab-and-go” meal such as muesli, cereal, energy bars and more.

For lunch, troops will also have the option of shwarma or grilled chicken or a hamburger made from real beef. There will also be vegan meals including grilled tofu, schnitzel tofu, shwarma tofu and a vegan hamburger.

Though the focus will be on combat troops who are engaged in prolonged operational missions that could be physically challenging, the military will also work to expand the choices for those with food allergies and intolerances such as the 1,000 soldiers with celiac disease serving in the IDF.

THE IDF has also begun to install 80 “fighter lounges” where combat troops will have 24/7 access to easy-to-prepare food such as pizza, jachnun, Belgian waffles, cereals, yogurts, energy bars and more.

Each lounge will be air-conditioned and will have a pergola and furniture placed outside.

The lounges, which will be the responsibility of non-commissioned officers to make sure they remain clean and full of food, will have a fridge, freezer, toaster, toaster oven, microwave, plates, cutlery and glasses.

Due to religious considerations, all the food will be parve – neither meat nor milk – and electronic devices will not work on Shabbat. Such devices will also be closed during the upcoming Passover holiday.

In addition, a total of 130 cafeterias will be fully renovated, of which 79 will be done by Passover and another 51 by June.

With military bases spread throughout the country, sometimes hours away from the home of a soldier, the IDF is responsible for providing safe transportation to troops.

Due to the lack of public transportation, especially on peak days like Sunday and Thursday, soldiers have been photographed standing like sardines in a can during long bus rides. Some have even hidden in the luggage compartments of buses. Fights have also broken out between troops who need to get to their base.

With the reforms, the military said that not only is it responsible for providing a safe way to get to base, but one that is “continuous and provides a quality travel experience.”

Instead of having to take public transportation on those peak days, troops will be able to use an application to book a seat on a shuttle that will take them from close to their home all the way to their base. There will also be 14 stations at large shopping centers across the country where troops will be provided with free food and drink for the ride.

The pilot for the shuttle service began during the corona pandemic when the IDF increased its shuttle services to about 15 pickup points with 80 buses involved. The IDF has now expanded the “Good Ride” program to 130 spots and 750 buses with 50 spots each. According to the military, in the three months since the program was expanded, some 40,000 troops have used the shuttle services.

The military said the program has already led to a 24% reduction of troops using trains on Sundays as well as a 12% decrease in soldiers riding buses to their bases.