UT lecturer shares his experience feeding U.S. troops overseas

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Pliny Fisk, right, asks Colonel Christopher Burke about his past work supplying food to servicemen following the "Feeding the Troops Abroad" event Thursday evening. Local organization Food+City arranged for Burke, who also lectures in the McCombs School of Business, to talk as part of their Food Futures speaker series.

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

Before he taught McCombs School of Business students, Christopher Burke was responsible for feeding approximately 190,000 U.S. troops and contractors stationed in Iraq as the commander of the U.S. Air Force’s Defensive Logistics Agency. 

Burke, a lecturer in the Department of Information, Risk, and Operations Management, spoke at Food+City’s “Feeding Our Troops Abroad” event about his experience in the military’s food supply chain. About 30 people attended the lecture, held on campus Thursday night. It was the third talk in Food+City’s 2018-2019 Food Futures speaker series.

Burke, an Air Force veteran of 27 years, said his biggest struggle while in charge of the food supply in Iraq came when one of their contractors ran into legal trouble and he had to find a replacement — all while making sure no one went hungry.

“I’ve got to keep them all fed, all happy, all satisfied,” Burke said. 

Burke said one way they sought to make the troops feel at home was by ensuring they had access to fresh fruits and vegetables that weren’t spoiled.

It was important to ensure there was enough variety of food for everyone to be well fed, regardless of dietary restrictions or preferences, Burke said.

 

Nutrition junior Miranda Robles said she attended the talk because of a personal connection to the military. 

“My dad is in the military and has been deployed several times,” Robles said. “I wanted to know more about how our troops overseas are fed.” 

Food+City is a nonprofit organization based in Austin that focuses on changing the way people are fed across the globe by inspiring innovative solutions to food supply problems, according to their website.

Food+City holds an annual startup challenge in which teams pitch ways to improve food supply and compete for prizes, mentorship and exposure to investors. Three student-led teams will pitch their ideas at the Food+City Expo, Student Challenge and Speaker Series on Sunday, March 10, on campus.

Food+City was founded by human ecology lecturer Robyn Metcalfe about seven years ago under the name Food Lab. Metcalfe said this was around the time she noticed students were becoming interested in food supply issues.

“They felt it was an opportunity to think about and work on other problems going on, whether it’s food waste or being able to feed the world in the future,” Metcalfe said.