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New menus in DFACs

Army committed to leaner force

Maj. Gen. Bill Burleson, commanding general, 7th ID, awaits to try one of the new healthy menu items as part of the Healthy Army Communities initiative. Photo credit: Capt. Stephanie Meno

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The Army is committed to losing weight.

In an October 2016 Department of Defense study, approximately 10.5 percent of soldiers were classified as overweight.

A year later, the Army Surgeon General's Office presented data that showed that the percentage of overweight soldiers had grown to 13 percent.

In meeting the challenge, the Army has begun the Healthy Army Communities (HAC) initiative to change a culture of poor diet and exercise.

"With readiness being the number one priority, we have seen a large shift in the way the Army views the role of food in a soldier's physical performances and readiness to deploy," said Capt. Stephanie Meno, a performance dietitian assigned to the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment.

The Army has selected 10 bases worldwide to test the initiative: Fort Belvoir, Fort Meade, Fort Riley, Fort Sill, Fort Benning, Fort Huachuca, Redstone Arsenal, Fort Bliss, United States Army Garrison Italy, and United States Army Humphreys.

"Although Joint Base Lewis-McChord was not selected, I Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Gary Volesky is adamant that JBLM lean in with the HAC efforts," Beth Ellis, a garrison community representative, wrote in an email.

The operative word is lean.

Volesky has directed working groups across the base to address nutrition options in the dining halls, shoppettes, and in vending machines.

Ellis added that the AAFES Exchange has converted several vending machines to include all 100 percent healthy food items.

With regard to the dining facilities, or DFACS, the job of revamping menus is a joint effort between I Corps, Madigan Army Medical Center, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), and the 62nd Airlift Wing.

At the heart of following healthy recipes to improve menu choices is the Go for Green criteria. Much like a traffic stoplight, soldiers are encouraged to select green foods often, yellow foods occasionally, and red foods sparingly.

"When implemented correctly, the Go for Green program is a powerful tool that can be used to guide healthier behaviors," continued Meno.

She also said that Go for Green utilizes placement to promote healthy foods in a visible and easily assessible manner.

"This is just another way to make the healthy choice the easiest and most intuitive choice for soldiers who are often rushed for time," Meno added.

DFACs distributed a survey to assess why soldiers chose the healthy food, overall quality of the food, and how they would improve the food. The compiled data will help determine which healthy food options will become standardized menu items across JBLM.

One of those participating in a taste test at the Ghost DFAC last Friday was Maj. Gen. Bill Burleson, commanding general, 7th Infantry Division.

Two new healthy food items on the menu were Chicken Kebobs and Tofu Stir Fry.

He sounded pleased.

"It's fantastic to see the teamwork between the dieticians, culinary specialists, and the investment the Army is making to optimize performance," Burleson said.

"This initiative is another step toward ensuring our soldiers are physically and mentally healthy to carry out their missions."

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