Foodservice for Summer Olympics 2016

A peek behind the curtain at training center foodservice for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

olympic athlete feeding tables

As an athlete, eating the right food to fuel the body is of the utmost importance. For an Olympic athlete representing the United States, the stakes are about as high as they can get.

Feeding elite athletes at the very top of their game is a daily focus for Terri Moreman. As associate director of food and nutrition services for the United States Olympic Committee, a position she’s held for 28 years, Moreman leads foodservice at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. She also supports the USOC’s training centers in Lake Placid, N.Y., and Chula Vista, Calif.

But as of late, Moreman has Brazil on the brain—she also manages foodservice at the USOC’s on-site training centers during the Olympic Games every two years, which she says is “primarily funded through individual contributions, sponsorships and licenses.” As of press time, she had made four trips to Rio de Janeiro in preparation for the 2016 Games there, with plans for one more.

Proof is in the plans

The USOC has two sports dietitians assigned to guide athlete feeding in Rio’s Olympic Village, where the main dining facilities are located. “They work together to advise the organizing committee on nutritional guidelines for meal service inside the village to make sure each athlete’s eating preferences are achieved,” she says. Two additional sports dietitians are assigned to support athlete feeding at the competition venues and three high-performance training facilities, the latter of which are managed by Moreman.

Though the games run Aug. 5-21, Moreman’s foodservice team will be on the ground in Rio starting in mid-July to accommodate athletes who have relocated there to train. “We anticipate doing 30,000 meals outside the Olympic Village to support the athletes,” she says of service pre- and post-competition, from July 20 to Aug. 22. Her goal is to provide meal service and recovery support consistent with that provided at the Colorado center. “We’re basically picking up Colorado Springs and we’re putting it down in three locations,” she says.

Kitchen revamp

Moreman was tasked with outfitting the kitchens at three existing facilities abroad—a youth sports building, a restaurant and a service kitchen—to meet her needs for athlete foodservice. “[Brazilians] cook everything on a barbecue,” she says. “How they cook it is very, very good, and we’re going to use some of those methods as well—but when you’re cooking for those quantities, you can’t cook one strip loin at a time.” Moreman added flat-top grills and charbroilers, plus proofing boxes and an oven dedicated solely to bread-baking. “[In Brazil], they’ve never baked bread a day in their life,” she says. Some equipment will be rented and some will be left in the facilities as a legacy.

Speedy delivery

The largest of the three locations, in Rio’s Barra region, will be the main hub for daily product delivery. “They’ll be inspected and sorted and prepped and shuttled to the other sites in a refrigerated truck,” she says. “There will be a dietitian in the vehicle escorting the product to each location to make sure it’s held at the right temperature.”

Partnering up

In addition to shipping products from the U.S., Moreman works with U.S. suppliers sponsoring the games, as well as linking up with the brands’ trusted vendors locally in Brazil. “I work with food and beverage directors in every country where I’m at to help me connect and network locally,” she says. “We meet with every supplier, we visit every warehouse, we ask about the cleanliness, the traceability. I ask these people more questions than I think they’ve ever been asked before.”

Consistency is key

The most important service Moreman’s team can provide athletes is “consistency in the diet—all the foods they are accustomed to eating,” she says. This isn’t the time to introduce unfamiliar dishes into the mix. That consistency includes buffet-style hot lines, and action stations for custom meal preparations.

“Our athletes love to try street food,  [but they’re encouraged to wait] until after the competition to make sure they’re training consistently throughout the event,” Moreman says.

All about recovery

Of the three Rio locations, two will feature hot meal service (one of which is lunch only), and the third will be grab-and-go. Snacks and drinks for post-workout recovery also are a major piece of the puzzle for athletes. “Chocolate milk is probably the No. 1 drink they ask for. They look for yogurt with all kinds of toppings,” she says. “We do custom smoothies under a script from a dietitian based on what the group of athletes might need.” Think protein bars, dried fruit, nuts and more bottled water than you can imagine, she says.

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