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Fort Leonard Wood Will Have A Traditional But COVID-Safe Thanksgiving Meal For Thousands

Fort Leonard Wood, 140 miles southwest of St. Louis, will be the site of thousands of Thanksgiving meals for soldiers, with coronavirus prevention measures.

Health experts are advising people to limit the size of their Thanksgiving gatherings to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, but that is a much bigger challenge when you’re cooking for 12,000 people at Fort Leonard Wood.

“With that danger, additional social distancing and sanitation measures are being implemented,” said William Moffitt, Installation Food Program manager at the base in the Missouri Ozarks.

The dining facilities at Fort Leonard Wood are set up for social distancing, and every table will be cleaned and disinfected after every meal. All staff wear masks at all times, and the soldiers only remove theirs when eating.

The meals will also be limited to Department of Defense ID cardholders. That includes retirees, Gold Star family members and veterans with access to the installation.

Food service team members at Fort Leonard Wood said they will be safe but are not going to let the precautions diminish the quality of the meal for soldiers who have to stay on post for the holiday.

“We’re not going to sacrifice the home feeling and the love that comes from each one of our food service personnel,” said Beverly Leggett, a representative for food service on post.

Leggett said all of the meals they serve are important, but they try to do something extra for soldiers who can’t be with their families on Thanksgiving.

“They're not just following recipe cards,” Leggett said. “They are putting their heart into each one of those meals. That baked macaroni and cheese is going to taste just like Grandma’s baked macaroni and cheese.”

The Fort Leonard Wood food service team of 300 people will prepare 7,000 pounds of turkey with all the trimmings, 1,200 pounds of shrimp, 2,000 pounds of beef and 2,000 assorted cakes and pies.

“2020 has been a challenge,” Moffitt said. “I’m really happy we are still able to provide this tradition to the Fort Leonard Wood community.”

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @JonathanAhl

Jonathan is the Rolla correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

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