Commissary brings food to community’s table

Have you ever wondered how the Commissary’s groceries make their way to you? The Defense Commissary Agency offers customers a one-stop shopping experience by sourcing its inventory from around the world.

Grocery items are sourced through contracts established by the Defense Commissary Agency. Different countries are contracted in order to increase variety in the store and to stock items that cannot be brought in from the states.

Kristen Beckman/Special to the Herald Union
Eric Jones, Commissary store worker, restocks supplies May 28 at the Wiesbaden Commissary. Meat sold in the Commissary is sourced from the U.S.

Commissary Director Jimmy Ephran and Assistant Commissary Director Marie-Luise Glaser said that many items in the Commissary, including meat and cheese, are sourced from the United States, while eggs and dairy products such as milk and cheese are sourced from Denmark. The majority of fresh produce is sourced locally from Germany. Items coming from within Europe are typically transported via truck, but items coming from overseas are typically transported via boat. However, due to recent significant shortages, spurred on by an increase in demand due to COVID-19, some orders from the U.S. have been transported via plane at an increased cost.

U.S.-sourced items that are purchased frozen from the Commissary, such as sausages and bacon, are typically frozen prior to transportation and have one year to be sold once the Commissary receives them. Ephran and Glaser pointed out that this process for freezing, transporting and selling as frozen has been approved by military food inspectors. Some food items that arrive frozen are “slacked out” and sold as chilled. This gives customers the option to purchase for immediate use, as opposed to purchasing the frozen version of the same item.

Shipments to the Commissary vary based on type of item: dry goods arrive daily, while frozen and chilled goods arrive three times per week. Additionally, in an effort to meet the increased demand during the COVID-19 situation, the Commissary scheduled additional and larger shipment deliveries.

Commissary sales remain above average and as people begin to return to work, less volunteers are able to donate time and energy to restocking the shelves. However, Commissary staff continue to restock the shelves every day and customers are welcome to call the store anytime during normal business hours to check that an item is in stock. If an item is out of stock, customers can give their contact information to a staff member, along with the item’s Universal Product Code, and request to be notified once that item arrives. Customers that would like to request specific items that may not normally be carried, such as a crown roast or a full pig, may place a special order in store, and receive it in about three days. Ephran adds that, “our staff has been working hard and putting in overtime, to make sure that the patrons have food on their dinner table on a daily basis.”