The Military’s Nutrition Conundrum

Our Armed Forces are going to have a difficult time improving the diet habits of Americans in uniform

There was an interesting story recently in the North County Times, a daily newspaper serving North San Diego. Entitled, “Food Choices Explode At Camp Pendleton,” the article talked about all of the food outlets available at this U.S. Marine Corps base. The article caught my eye because we’re always on the lookout for articles about military foodservice, and because I had just read last month about First Lady Michelle Obama’s efforts to expand her Let’s Move campaign to military bases. I wanted to see how the efforts at Camp Pendleton mesh with Mrs. Obama’s nutrition push. The short answer is, they don’t.

According to the article in the Times, there are more than two dozen retail restaurants on the base, many of them fast food establishments such as McDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts and Sonic. These units are, of course, exempt from the Pentagon’s recent initiative, led by the first lady, to improve the nutritional value of meals served in military dining halls.

The article went on to quote several base personnel about how much they crave fast food and little they enjoy the food in the dining halls.

“I only go to the chow hall when I’m low on money,” said one Marine. “I’m just not a chow hall fan,” said another.

To be fair to the foodservice personnel at Camp Pendleton, a reporter can choose which comments and quotes he or she includes in a story, so we don’t know whether positive comments about the base’s own foodservice program were made—or even solicited, for that matter. But there is no denying this fact: the Department of Defenses estimates that it spends more than $1 billion a year on medical costs related to the weight-related problems of military personnel.

This is going to be a tough nut for the military to crack. Military bases are really a hybrid: part college campus, part corporate office. A college campus does have the luxury of controlling what foodservice comes onto campus, and students have the ability to go off campus when they crave something that isn’t offered within the university boundaries.

Many soldiers, sailors and airmen, while of college age, are actually holding down a job, and they seldom have the luxury of going off base for a meal when they are on duty. So, the base brings often the food to them, so to speak.

“We have 50,000 to 60,000 people here a day,” a representative of the Marine Corps’ Community Services office was quoted as saying in the Times. “They need food choices.”

Let’s Move is gaining a foothold in school districts, where federal, state and local governments can work together to mandate the type of food made available to elementary and secondary school students. The government’s power over the dining choices of its own military personnel, however, is much more tenuous.

I’m not suggesting the government ban unhealthy food from military bases. But I do believe Michelle Obama is going to have a much harder time improving the nutritional health of our men and women in uniform.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

Labor secretary nominee Andy Puzder has officially bowed out of consideration for the cabinet position, according to the Associated Press .

Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants—the parent company of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.—was tired of being under fire for hiring an undocumented immigrant as a nanny and being accused 26 years ago of physically abusing his wife, an unnamed source told CBS News . The agency reported that Puzder was unlikely to show for the start of his confirmation hearings tomorrow.

Puzder has also been attacked by organized labor for comments suggesting that...

Industry News & Opinion

Risley Dining Room at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., has just become 100 percent gluten-free, 14850.com reports.

For the past two years, the university has slowly phased out gluten in the dining hall’s menu by eliminating it in its stir fries, biscuits and brownies.

Instead of offering gluten-free versions of typical college fare, including pizza and pasta, the dining service team aimed for more sophisticated restaurant-style items.

Along with being gluten-free, Risley is also peanut free and tree-nut free.

The dining room is the second college eatery...

Industry News & Opinion

James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., recently hosted a weeklong program called Weigh the Waste, which aimed to show students how much food gets wasted in dining halls, The Breeze reports.

Throughout the week, students placed food they were about to throw away on a scale located near the trash bins at one of their dining halls. At the end of the week, the school tallied the waste and saw that 817 pounds of food had been wasted.

School officials hope that the annual program, which it’s hosted since 2015, will remind dining hall patrons to only take as much food as...

Industry News & Opinion

The University of Maryland will begin offering weekly specials at all of its dining halls this semester, The Diamond Back reports.

The weekday specials will allow Dining Services to offer past menu items that students miss as well as new dishes students have been requesting, according to a spokesperson.

Students can find out which specials are being offered each week via dining hall table tents as well as through Dining Services’ social media. During select weeks, the specials may reflect a particular theme, such as Taste of the South.

Read the full story via...

FSD Resources