Increase Healthy Food Options for Local Military Families

February 20, 2014 | By More

Please consider support for a project to increase healthy food access for military personnel and families at MCB Quantico.

Promoting good nutrition and healthy eating is a challenge in any community. To tackle these challenges in military communities, Department of Defense has recently launched the Healthy Base Initiative (HBI), a pilot program aimed at addressing the growing obesity epidemic among military personnel, and to promote a healthier and more fit military force. Currently, the DoD spends approximately $3 billion a year on health care costs and lost duty days associated with obesity and tobacco usage. Obesity is also a leading cause of involuntary separation from the military, and obesity among young Americans limits DoD’s ability to recruit qualified personnel.  MCB Quantico is one of 15 installations selected to participate in the initial HBI assessment.As part of HBI’s efforts to make military personnel and their families healthier, one of the first farmers market on a US military base was launched at MCB Quantico in 2013. The market was piloted by to provide direct access to seasonal local produce and other local foods to Quantico families, military and civilian personnel. The market provides a weekly opportunity for the 25,000 base employees to purchase healthy foods, fresh from local farms.  The Quantico Farmers Market is located near base housing, which serves 2,122 adults and 1,797 dependents residing on base.Because military families are often large and run low on money by the end of the month, Quantico Farmers Market offered a $10 incentive for every SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Incentive Program or food stamps) purchase made at the market, encouraging families to include more fresh produce in their diets. The farmers market was popular and had a good first season in 2013, and will operate again in 2014. However,without additional funding it will be difficult to expand the reach and impact of the program activities in the upcoming 2014 season.

Military families have unique challenges around healthy food consumption.  Our experience last season at the Quantico Farmers Market showed that many personnel had limited exposure to farmers markets and were not aware of the superior flavor and health benefits of consuming fresh, nutrient-dense, locally grown produce. Some had never interacted with local farmers, who are a helpful source of information about how to choose and use local produce. Many military families shop exclusively at the Commissary, where prices are consistently low, but where produce is often imported and of lesser nutritional value.  Base Command reports Col that while many military personnel meet the weight and fitness guidelines, their family diets do not support good nutrition and long-term health.

Our goal for the 2014 Quantico Farmers Market season is to expand awareness of the market and to attract many more Quantico personnel to avail themselves of the healthy local food available at the market.  To do so, we need a robust outreach effort and on-site staff to work with MCCS, Semper Fit, DoD base schools, Academies and other organizations.

To succeed, this effort needs community support to connect military families with healthy local food. Support from community members will also help MCB Quantico meet their HBI objectives.  With $10,000 in support, we can launch a targeted outreach effort to military families, on and off base. With $20,000, we can hire an on-site staff member to coordinate with base agencies and schools and provide at-market fresh food education. With $35,000, we can develop a Farm-to-School program that provides STEM-based experiential learning on farming, local food and nutrition to the next generation of military families.

With 21 military installations in Virginia, proactive support for the Quantico Farmers Market will establish a baseline of knowledge on how to successfully engage military families in more nutritious food purchases and healthy eating patterns. We all share a vested interest in a healthier and fit military community, and we look forward to partnering with community members on this exciting project.

Contributions of any amount towards this healthy food program are welcome and appreciated. Please make checks payable to George Washington Regional Commission/Farmers Market (GWRC, 406 Princess Anne St, Fredericksburg, VA 22401) or click below to use PayPal.


Make a donation via Paypal.

Thank you for your generosity and support.


Category: Events, Fundraising, Market, Nutrition Incentives, Quantico Farmers Market, SNAP/EBT

About the Author ()

Gayle Mitchell is a Market Manager for the Fredericksburg CIty Farmers Market. She grew up on small farms in Arkansas and Virginia. She has called Fredericksburg home for more than 20 years.

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