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Joint Base Andrews News

NEWS | Oct. 19, 2022

Freedom Hall Dining Facility returns to pre-COVID operations, expands service to retirees and DoD civilians

By 316th Wing Public Affairs

Staff Sgt. Bianca P. Turner waited patiently for Julian Dancel to finish the culinary masterpiece. 

Turner, 316th Security Forces Squadron security manager, was at her usual morning stop before heading into work – breakfast at the Freedom Hall Dining Facility at Joint Base Andrews, Md. Dancel, dining facility cook, was twiddling his spatula over the griddle, putting the final touches on Turner’s custom-ordered omelet sizzling with real eggs and stuffed with green peppers, spinach and cheese. 

“I come here every morning,” Turner said, after adding bacon and hash browns on the side of her omelet.  “This is my go-to.”

Turner’s breakfast was one of more than 300 meals served daily at Freedom Hall.  Before the COVID-19 pandemic began in the spring of 2020, that number was closer to 500, according to Lourdes M. Seneca, Freedom Hall Dining Facility project manager.  To coincide with actions taken during early 2020 in response to the pandemic, Freedom Hall halted dine-in service and began carry-out only for Airmen in the dormitories.  All employees were also required to get vaccinated and wear masks while working.

About six months ago, the dining hall returned to full dine-in service, and Seneca said while attendance hasn’t reached pre-COVID levels, the number of daily patrons has been climbing steadily.

The dining facility isn’t just for service members – the doors opened Oct. 1 for retirees and Department of Defense civilians, said Thomas Ford, Freedom Hall’s assistant project manager for the last 10 years.  Retirees can eat there seven days a week, and Mondays and Tuesdays are available for DoD civilians. 

  The rotating main menu items are dictated in a 28-day cycle by the Air Force Services Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, Ford said.  All items are sourced locally from vendors, and meals are prepared in-house.

The dining facility has options for those who don’t eat meat as well – each meal usually includes one vegan selection, and of course vegetables and the salad bar are available, Ford said.  Menu items are classified in three color-coded categories:

  • Green: High-performance food, eat moderately (examples include vegetables, beans, and baked fish and chicken)
  • Yellow: Moderate-performance food, eat occasionally (roast pork, bread, mashed potatoes, and pasta)
  • Red: Low-performance food, eat rarely (fried foods, gravy and high-sodium offerings)

Green, yellow and red placards are placed on the serving line with the names and sodium content levels of each dish.

While some food is already prepared and immediately ready on the serving line, patrons can request for items to be cooked on the griddle, such as omelets, hamburgers and cheeseburgers, chicken breast sandwiches, and grilled cheese sandwiches.  A “cold bar” is also available for wraps and sandwiches made with cold cuts like ham and turkey.

“I encourage the Airmen to eat healthy items,” Seneca said.  Not only does she dish out advice, but she can also sometimes be found behind the counter dishing out food.

“I enjoy feeding the troops,” she said.  “Sometimes I get on the serving line, and they ask me, ‘What is good?’  I say, ‘Everything!  Everything is good today!’”

The dining facility has celebration meals for the birthdays of each branch of the U.S. armed forces, as well as Christmas and other holidays.  With the first Thanksgiving since returning to full service coming up, Ford said plans are already in the works for a feast for Airmen on base. 

“We have a big meal planned for Thanksgiving – it’s all laid out,” he said.  Turkey, ham, prime rib, shrimp and sweet potatoes will highlight the featured offerings.  There will also be a hand-carved turkey shaped ice sculpture on display, and base commanders and senior enlisted leaders will be serving the meal.

Freedom Hall is also staffed 24/7 to support boxed meals for aircrews, he said.  That menu has eight choices for sandwiches with four supplements, plus breakfast boxes with cereal and a ham and cheese croissant.

“I like the employees we have here, and I like seeing the Airmen smile,” Ford said.  “I like helping the Airmen out.”

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Kameron Henning, Naval Air Facility Washington administrative assistant, mainly visits Freedom Hall for lunch.  His favorite item is Mongolian barbecue.

“I enjoy eating here,” Henning said.  “The food is great, and the people are nice.  They care about the food and people coming here and are respectful.” 

Senior Airman Adyssen D. Reyes, 316th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron family health medical technician, lives off base but still frequents the dining facility.

“It’s close to work and is convenient, and the food is good for the price,” she said.  “They have a lot of options and healthy choices.”

The Freedom Hall Dining Facility is open weekdays from 6 to 8:30 a.m. for breakfast, 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for lunch, and 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. for dinner.  On weekends, hours are 7 a.m. to noon for brunch and 3 to 6:30 p.m. for dinner.  The daily menu is available on the dining facility’s section of the 316th Force Support Squadron’s website.