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Labels on commissary shelves give shoppers heads-up on nutrition

By Robert Goetz | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | Feb. 7, 2017

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas-- Grocery shoppers at commissaries throughout the armed forces can now easily see if the food items they’re choosing are healthy.

Labels clearly visible from the shelves are giving them a heads-up and, in some cases, a thumbs-up.

Labels designating food items as “low sodium,” “whole grain,” “low fat” and other health categories are part of a Defense Commissary Agency initiative called the Nutrition Guide Program, an extension of the Go4Green Program targeted at military dining facilities.

“Most customers, unless they’re health-conscious, don’t look at the nutrition labels on the back of food items,” said Claudia Smith, Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Commissary manager. “With these labels on the shelves, it’s easier to visualize. It gives the military community a better way to stay fit.”

Rolled out in January, the Nutrition Guide Program aligns criteria for tagging grocery items as closely as possible with Go4Green, the color-coded system that designates “green” items as nutrient-dense.

Through this alignment, the program aims to meet Go4Green’s overall food consumption goals in building a healthy eating pattern, influence healthier purchasing behaviors, reinforce nutrient density and performance while increasing self-efficacy and support the mission of the military community, according to DeCA.

JBSA-Randolph Commissary employees labeled shelves in December preparing for the January rollout, Smith said.

DeCA’s five nutrition attributes, with corresponding labels, are “whole grain,” “good source of fiber,” “low sodium,” “low fat” and “no sugar added.” The “organic” label is given to items that have been certified as organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Some items are also given the “Thumbs Up” designation as a high-nutrition, high-performance food.

Not all foods are included in the program. Some of the categories that are part of the program are chilled meats, baking goods, condiments, bread, frozen foods, canned goods, grains, pasta, soups and cereal and breakfast foods. Fresh meat, fresh seafood, fresh produce, coffee, tea, water and seasonings are among the items that are not part of the program.

Because the program is so new, Smith said she is not able to determine its impact on shoppers.

“Customers are still getting used to the idea,” she said. “By the end of this month, we may be able to see if it’s working in our store.”

However, Smith said she is excited about the program from her own consumer’s perspective.

“I’m a regular shopper,” she said. “Before, I didn’t look at the labels. Now I’m more likely to choose the healthier item.”