By CPT Kelsey Hagler, Joint Base Lewis McChord Ready and Resilient Operations OfficerMarch 14, 2019
Service members and patrons across Joint Base Lewis-McChord will be seeing new green stickers on a few vending machines, displaying the "Eat Well, Perform Well" logo, in hopes of encouraging healthier choices when they are in dire need of some energy -- and fast.
Twenty-two vending machines across JBLM have been converted to 100 percent healthy vending options as part of a pilot program that will run from April to June. The pilot program is a fairly small sample of the more than 800 machines throughout the installation, but it is an important first step in creating a change.
"If this works, and we like what we're doing, we want to expand after the 90 days," said Beth Ellis, the Community Ready and Resilient integrator.
The purpose of this initiative is to give service members, who want a quick and easy snack, better choices and to help improve overall readiness. The program is an offshoot as part of the larger U.S. Army Forces Command's Go for Green program to introduce better and permanent healthy food in dining facilities.
The healthy vending machine effort hopes to overhaul the options for snacks and beverages in vending machines across the base with a goal of converting all vending machines with 100 percent healthy snack options following analysis at the completion of the test period.
"We've been working on it for a year," Ellis said.
The program is still in the late stages of the planning process and is structured with a working group made up of Army and Air Force Exchange Service management, JBLM Garrison leadership and Madigan Army Medical Center dietician. Coordinated by Ellis, the working group meets every two weeks to discuss the logistics of rolling out the program.
With a sizable list of more than 145 approved items, the snacks will be no more than 250 calories per serving and have 0 grams of trans fat. They also have less than 220 milligrams of sodium per serving, although most snacks fall far below that amount.
Service members and patrons can look forward to some familiar brands, and maybe some less well-known brands to try for the first time.
Service members and patrons will be able to identify the healthy vending machines scattered between JBLM Main, JBLM North and McChord Field by looking for the green "Eat Well, Perform Well" logo plastered across the machines. Stocking 22 vending machines as part of the pilot program is only half the battle.
Service members and patrons still have the option to purchase snack items from the vast majority of the vending machines that are not part of the pilot program. Some concerns already identified include the higher cost of the snacks and the taste or style of the vetted snacks that will line rows of the vending machines.
Patrons of the machines will have the opportunity to scan a QR code or follow a link to a website for a short survey about their experience with the machine. Their feedback goes directly to the organizers of this effort and will help shape the program going forward.
Nutrition plays one of the most important factors in achieving and maintaining physical readiness.
JBLM also kicked off Go for Green options across the base dining facilities by creating and field testing different and healthy recipes for feedback. The end goal is to provide more healthy choices and options for service members across the base.
By providing healthy and easily accessible choices, the intent is for Soldiers to choose better options and create a good foundation of nutrition, helping to increase overall readiness and performance.
Soldiers have several resources to improve their knowledge and implementation of diet and nutrition. In the dining facilities, better choices are marked with green tags to show that those items will provide optimum nutrition and energy.
The Military Health System hosts health.mil, a website with a variety of topics from physical and mental wellness, nutrition, and physical activity under the overall focus of Operation Live Well. AAFES manages an initiative called Be Fit, to "empower Military customers, and their families and communities with fitness information, nutrition tips and tools to help them live healthy," in which they offer guides for workouts, healthy recipes, and more.
On JBLM, all Department of Defense ID card holders have access to the Armed Forces Wellness Center, providing health and wellness primary prevention including BodPod assessments and resting metabolic rate assessments to help tailor strategies for healthy eating and weight loss.
AAFES will fill the pilot machines by mid-March, and the official kickoff and data-tracking will begin April
Service members and patrons will submit feedback through the survey that will be analyzed in real time, while AAFES will monitors the monthly profits and compare them to the previous years' sales.
The goal is to see a similar trend in sales, not necessarily similar profits. The program will run through June, at which time the initiation for the full rollout for 100 percent healthy vending machines across JBLM begins.