Sustain Our Nation's Forests and Grasslands

Boxelder Job Corps mobile kitchen serves up tasty meals to hungry firefighters


Photo Caption 180413-FS-Boxelder JC-EB-001: Boxelder Mobile Kitchen crew, on assignment at the Vallecito Lake Staging Area, San Juan National Forest, take a moment to pose for a group photo. (Left to right) First Row: Boxelder Job Corps Mobile Kitchen Manager Chuck Steinberg, Cook Lynn Philips, and Job Corps students Evangeline Tarway, Brian Puc Gongora, and Wyatt Harrington and Camp Crew Boss Erik Simonyak. Second Row: Job Corps students Manualla Long and Tayler Johnson and Cook Chi Chang. Third Row: Job Corps students Gala Shendi, Ayanna Farmer, and Benoit Niyukuri. Fourth Row: Job Corps students Carlose Cole and Massi Sade. Fifth Row: Job Corps students Matthew Keppers Swan and Babtiste Weasel Bear. Photo courtesy of Eric Bracken, Timber Lake Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center.

COLORADO – Feeding 146 hungry firefighters is a big job! The Boxelder Job Corps Culinary Program served up meals at the Vallecito Lake Staging Area on the San Juan National Forest for over 35 days and received rave reviews, proving it is up to the task.

Culinary arts students operating the kitchen packed up and departed for home on July 19, 2018; that final day, lucky firefighters remaining in camp feasted on a breakfast of made-to-order omelets with a choice of ham, beef, bacon, sausage, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, Green chilies, jalapenos, spinach, and four different cheeses. The mobile kitchen based out of Nemo, South Dakota, prepared three meals a day and served exactly 14,451 meals to firefighters based at Vallecito during its seven week dispatch.

While serving a range of entrees that appeal to firefighters, the culinary arts program takes the time to accommodate the special dietary requirements of individuals. Students prepare meals that meet a strict caloric intake of 6,500 calories a day per firefighter that is appropriately distributed between proteins, fats, and carbohydrates and prepared in a certified food safe environment.

Job Corps Culinary arts students staffing the mobile kitchen at the Vallecito Lake Staging area operated under the guidance of Boxelder Job Corps Kitchen Manager Chuck Steinberg. 

“When a crew boss from Oregon asked me, ‘How do we get you out our way to cook for us’, I said ‘call dispatch,’” said Steinberg. “My students have a wonderful team spirit. This assignment has been a great opportunity for them to not only learn about nutrition and refine their cooking skills, but they also learn interpersonal and job readiness skills. They appreciate hearing and seeing the gratitude of the firefighters.”

Students who staff the Boxelder Mobile Kitchen come from Forest Service Job Corps Centers from across the country. A team of four staff and 12 students from Boxelder students initially staffed the kitchen but departed on June 21st after completing a 21 day assignment. Four culinary arts students from the Timber Lake Job Corps Center, located in Estacada, Oregon, arrived on June 19th and operated the kitchen until it demobilized.

The Boxelder Job Corps Mobile Kitchen has been deployed to Type 3 incidents across the western United States and is available to pack up and serve meals hundreds of miles away. After graduating with a culinary arts certificate, Job Corps culinary arts students can go to work in a commercial kitchen or apply to an advanced culinary school for further training.

The Boxelder Job Corps Mobile Kitchen is part of the Job Corps Wildland Fire Program. It is managed jointly by Forest Service Job Corps and the Forest Service Fire and Aviation Management.


Firefighters line-up for the evening meal service provided by the Boxelder Job Corps Mobile Kitchen at the Vallecito Lake Staging Area, San Juan National Forest. Photo courtesy of Eric Bracken, Timber Lake Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center.

Firefighters eat the evening meal provided by the Boxelder Job Corps Mobile Kitchen at the Vallecito Lake Staging Area, San Juan National Forest. Photo courtesy of Eric Bracken, Timber Lake Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center.