United States Department of Defense officials and first lady Michelle Obama introduced a new obesity and nutrition awareness campaign on Thursday at Little Rock (AR) Air Force Base.
The campaign will overhaul 1,100 American military dining facilities by updating their nutritional standards to include more fresh fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy products with every meal for nearly 1.5 million troops a day, according to a Department of Defense news release. This is the first time in 20 years a military-wide campaign for nutritional improvements has been made.
The campaign, developed by the Military Health System, will encourage people to make better nutritional choices. It will include updating menu standards at military dining facilities, assessing the nutritional environment of military facilities, and ensuring healthier food is available in dining facilities, schools and in places such as vending machines and snack bars.
Obama said the change was necessary because military leaders know the obesity epidemic is not just a diet or health issue but a national security issue. She cited a recent Army study that indicates a quarter of the nation’s 17- to 24-year-olds cannot serve in the military due to weight issues. Others may pass weight standards but go on to struggle in basic training or suffer injuries due to years of inactivity and poor nutrition.
The Department of Defense created the campaign to address readiness, reduce costs and to improve the military population's health, Obama said at the Little Rock base, which is one of six bases testing a pilot program to enhance food service quality, variety and availability. The Little Rock dieticians and chefs joined forces to make meals that were well-balanced, well-presented and tasteful, according to the Department of Defense news release.
The test bases also opened their dining facilities to the entire base population, not just for airmen in dorms or in uniform. More than 100,000 meals have been served at the base since September.
An avid supporter of healthy eating and exercise, the first lady continued on a four-state tour to celebrate the second anniversary of her Let’s Move campaign, which partnered with the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) and the American Council on Exercise (ACE) last year to offer free health club memberships and fitness training services to military personnel and their families.
According to the IHRSA website, the campaign is still encouraging fitness clubs to enroll in the Joining Forces Network to provide free six-month memberships to spouses or immediate family members of reservists and National Guard members during the time of their deployment. Personal training, small group training or group fitness sessions also have been made available to service members and their families.The ACE campaign for personal training efforts has pledged 110,000 fitness training service hours since the initiative began in May 2011.