‘FILL UP WITH HEALTHY EATS!’: Want a nutritious alternative to fast food? Commissaries say ongoing roll out of fueling stations will fit the bill
FORT LEE, Va. – Dietitian-Approved Fueling Stations are the healthy and cost-effective alternatives to fast food the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) continues to offer for service members at more and more stores.
Nearly 80 commissaries have the stations with more on the way as DeCA moves toward the last of a three-phased launch in September. After the phase 3 launch, the agency expects at least 176 stores will be in the fueling station program. More stores will be added later as they configure space for the coolers needed to maintain the products.
DeCA’s latest nutritious initiative saves money and time while boosting nutrition, said Marine Sgt. Maj. Michael R. Saucedo, senior enlisted advisor to the agency director.
“Many of our young troops are motivated by convenience,” Saucedo said. “These fueling stations offer them that nutritious time-saver when they are trying to grab something quick for either a snack or to build a meal.”
DeCA has experienced a 16-percent increase in sales of the items stocked in the fueling stations during the January/May timeframe, a boost that doesn’t surprise Edgar Gonzalez, the store administrator at the Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois, Commissary. At his store, they stock a multitude of cut fruit and veggie cups, which has drastically increased their overall produce sales.
“Since Great Lakes began the Dietitian-Approved Fueling Station, we have had multiple positive comments and kudos for helping the population focus on healthy alternatives,” Gonzalez said. “The Naval Station Great Lakes command fitness leader also reached out to us to coordinate some training for his newly graduated training support center (TSC) students, specifically to speak about the fueling station as a quick, easy and convenient way to get a healthy lunch.”
The fueling stations vary in size and makeup based on the space available in stores. All stations are approved by Deborah Harris, DeCA’s dietitian and health and wellness program manager, MPH, RD, CDCES.*
“The goal of our fueling stations is to reinforce that the commissary not only supports weekly shoppers, but also serves as a meal destination and convenient way to stock office and barrack fridges with healthy options for quick, on-the-go, snacks and meals,” Harris said.
Items stocked in fueling stations may vary from store to store, but customers can expect to see products that offer protein, healthy fat, complex carbohydrates and a low-calorie form of hydration from the following categories:
- Single-serve options of snacks and meals
- Low-calorie/low-added-sugar-flavored beverages
- Single-serving hummus
- Packets of ready-to-eat lean protein, fruits and cheese
- No-added-sugar yogurts
- Low-sugar protein bars
- Prepared sliced fruits and salads
The refueling station launch follows the commissaries’ release of the new Dietitian-Approved Thumb (DAT) program which uses DeCA-designed software to analyze and identify products in most of the commissary food categories based on the FDA-defined health attributes. The attributes analyzed identify dietitian-approved foods that limit added sugar, sodium and unhealthy fat while offering whole grains, healthy fats, fiber or lean protein.
Both programs illustrate the commissaries’ support of the military community related to the mission readiness and resilience, and how the benefit supports the health and wellness of service members throughout their careers and afterwards, Saucedo said.
‘“Fueling for Performance’ is a key concern for our military community,” Saucedo said. “Commissaries are a key player in this effort being delivered throughout the force that connects the importance of nutrition and diet to overall readiness.”
*Harris has a Masters of Public Health degree, and is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist.
About DeCA: The Defense Commissary Agency operates a worldwide chain of commissaries providing groceries to military personnel, retirees and their families in a safe and secure shopping environment. Commissaries provide a military benefit, saving authorized patrons thousands of dollars annually on their purchases compared to similar products at commercial retailers. The discounted prices include a 5-percent surcharge, which covers the costs of building new commissaries and modernizing existing ones. A core military family support element, and a valued part of military pay and benefits, commissaries contribute to family readiness, enhance the quality of life for America’s military and their families, and help recruit and retain the best and brightest men and women to serve their country.