New lunch experiment serves cold comfort for conscripts

It's -20°C outside: is a protein bar, an energy drink and some raisins a good substitute for a hot meal for troops?

File picture of Finnish soldiers training in winter / Credit: Defence Command

They say an army marches on its stomach, but the Finnish army might not be marching very far based on what some conscripts are getting for lunch.

The Defence Forces has started a new four-week experiment to replace a traditional hot meal at lunchtime with cold snacks like protein bars and an energy drink. Even when conscripts are training in temperatures as low as -20°C.

The new ‘brown bag lunch’ is served on Thursday, Wednesday and Thursday at Pori Brigade, Coastal Brigade and the Air Force Academy, and also includes bread and spread, nuts and raisins.

“In practice, we’re trying to improve the effectiveness of spare time and training time by reducing unnecessary disruptions” says Lieutenant Colonel Markku Jämsä.

“We’re getting rid of all these unnecessary transitions such as shifting from the field back to the canteen, unnecessary undressing, re-dressing, and moving back to the training area” he tells News Now Finland.

File picture of Finnish troops during winter / Credit: Defence Command

According to Jämsä, the ‘brown bag lunch’ is designed by experts to contain as much energy as a normal hot lunch does, and is meant to be eaten in one go and not snacked on during the day.

“The daily lunch bags will be picked up by the conscripts after breakfast. Conscripts have also received proper training to be able to carry the lunch properly for the day, so that the food is in good condition at lunch time, and has not got frozen, for example” says Jämsä.

The military will keep tabs on the lunch experiment, and figure out in March if they want to continue it, expand it, or cancel it.

“We are looking forward to learning whether the experiment was successful or not, whether food has been sufficient, did the food contain enough energy, how was the taste, what should be developed and what should be changed” Jämsä explains.

The military says they haven’t heard any specific complaints so far about the new bags, although some parents have complaints to Finnish newspapers about what their sons have been given during a period of very cold weather.

This is not the first the Finnish Defence Forces have experimented with food changes recently.

In late 2018 they announced that meat-free meals would be served once per week. This came as a surprise apparently to Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö (Blue) who questioned whether conscripts would receive the amount of energy and nutrition they needed from vegetarian food.