ARLINGTON, TX, UNITED STATES
Story by Julie Mitchell
ARLINGTON, TEXAS – The Army & Air Force Exchange Service joined forces with Healthy Army Communities partners last week to brainstorm plans to promote readiness and resiliency for Warfighters, military families and retirees worldwide for the next several years.
Healthy Army Communities, led by Installation Management Command (IMCOM) G9, Family and MWR, encourages healthy lifestyles and aims to make Army communities healthier places to live and work. The Exchange; IMCOM; Defense Commissary Agency; Army Public Health Center; Army G4; and Army Sustainment Command have partnered for nearly two years on this effort. The group is more relevant than ever, especially as the Department of Defense’s interest in the health and wellness of service members grows.
During meetings and workshops Feb. 27 and Feb. 28 in Arlington, Texas, Exchange leaders and Healthy Army Communities partners discussed progress and what’s ahead to keep our Nation’s fighting force ready and resilient.
“Collaboration is critical,” said Trini Saucedo, Exchange senior vice president for Services and Food. “By hearing what each organization is doing and brainstorming solutions together, we can best take care of our Nation’s heroes—our Warfighters and their families.”
As part of Healthy Army Communities, Exchange leaders visited six installations—Fort Belvoir, U.S. Army Garrison Italy, Fort Benning, Fort Riley, U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii and Fort Sill—during the last two years to improve better-for-you options.
“This was too important for us to simply make improvements on a limited number of installations,” Saucedo said. “Rather than creating solutions for these six locations, the Exchange developed comprehensive healthy-living plans for Army bases around the world.”
As a result, the Exchange is transforming food courts and Express convenience stores worldwide to offer healthier choices. Better-for-you choices are part of the Exchange’s robust BE FIT program, which arms Soldiers and families with fitness information, nutrition tips and tools to help them live healthy lifestyles.
All of the Exchange’s 1,700 restaurants have better-for-you options. More restaurants focused on healthy choices, including a second Muscle Maker Grill at Fort Benning and a Freshens Fresh Food Studio at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, are coming in 2019.
In Express locations, the BE FIT program is thriving.
“The Exchange has made it easier for Soldiers to grab a healthy snack at the Express,” said Eric Sidman, vice president of specialty stores. “Special shelf tags highlight more than 450 BE FIT-approved snacks, including fresh fruit, yogurt, hard-boiled eggs and more, so shoppers can quickly spot better-for-you options.”
The Exchange is also expanding better-for-you choices in vending machines with options that fulfill National Automatic Merchandising Association Fit Pick requirements and micro markets. The Exchange has 100 percent dedicated healthy vending contracts covering 295 machines at 11 installations. Micromarkets are automated self-checkout facilities that provide better-for-you options such as sandwiches, salads, fruit and milk. The Exchange has 23 micromarkets at 13 installations—11 locations were added in 2018.
The Exchange’s BE FIT program is at the forefront of the Department of Defense retailer’s efforts to support health and wellness for Warfighters and families. Videos and signs in Exchange stores and food courts, social media posts and the Exchange’s online community Hub promote the program.
“The Exchange takes a holistic approach to BE FIT initiatives,” Saucedo said. “Better-for-you meals in our restaurants and snacks in the Express, wellness services like optometry and dentistry as well as a large assortment of athletic gear and apparel in stores and on ShopMyExchange.com fuel a BE FIT lifestyle for military shoppers.”
Tim Higdon, program manager, Healthy Army Communities, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, praised the Exchange’s BE FIT efforts.
“The Exchange is a leader among the partners,” Higdon said. “The above-and-beyond response provides motivation for what other partner organizations are doing.”