For nearly five years, Fort McCoy has been on the leading edge of improving nutritional fitness across the Department of Defense with participation in the Go 4 Green food labeling program.
Started in 2015 with version 1.0, Go 4 Green is a joint service nutrition initiative that improves service members’ abilities to make informed food choices where they live and work, said Jim Gouker, contract oversight representative and quality assurance evaluator with the Logistics Readiness Center Food Services Division.
“Go 4 Green prompts better food and beverage selections with the aim to optimize performance, readiness, and health,” Gouker said. “Our dining facilities at Fort McCoy are well into this program. When the program came online, we put it into place with version one. We implemented it with the guidelines we had then. We also were key contributors in identifying some of the issues with that first version, and since we have gone through two more migrations from 1.5 to now 2.0, which we have in place here.”
Gouker is one of 29 advisers on the Department of Defense (DOD) Go 4 Green Advisory Board. He said the board has advisers from all the services.
“If you think about it, proper nutrition is a national defense issue,” Gouker said. “If you can’t keep your service members healthy, you can’t protect a nation. Go 4 Green encourages service members to choose nutrient-packed, green-coded options to fuel optimal physical and mental performance.”
At dining facilities, Gouker said food cards are arranged in a stoplight concept. Green-coded food is considered high-performance food and should be eaten often. Yellow-coded food is moderate-performance food and should be eaten occasionally. Red-coded food is low-performance food and should be eaten rarely.
One of the major changes in the program in the last five years has been looking at sodium in food as a stand-alone item.
“We did this because many people have to watch their sodium intake,” Gouker said. Sodium levels of food are labeled as low, medium, and high as well.
Coding of Go 4 Green food cards and recipes is performed only by trained and certified Go 4 Green coders like Gouker.
“Training and certification for Go 4 Green comes from the Human Performance Resource Center (HPRC),” Gouker said. HPRC is the educational arm of the Consortium for Health and Military Performance at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.
Gouker said food coding is based on an algorithm that looks at:
• whether an item has been deep fried or contains trans fats or monosodium glutamate.
• the percentage of calories from saturated fats.
• the percentage of calories from total fat.
• total grams of fiber.
• the level of sugar.
• the degree of processing.
“Fort McCoy currently has 267 active recipes that I have coded, along with items such as salad bar items, and more,” Gouker said. “Quarterly, we complete a 10 percent random check on these recipes to ensure they stay accurate. There could be vendor or contractor changes, so we want to ensure that each food item and recipe is still accurate.”
Gouker said keeping on top of the program is a lot of work but added that the advisory board team members work well together and are always looking to improve the nutritional options open to service members in all DOD dining facilities.
“In our own way, we are affecting fitness levels of military members across the DOD,” he said. “That’s part of the initiative. It’s not to dictate to the service members what they will eat but to provide them (nutritional) education and give them a system to help make healthy choices.
“That’s the beauty of the program. It doesn’t take away options, it gives people the capability to make good choices based on their personal requirements,” he said.
Members of the DOD Go 4 Green Advisory Board are meeting this month to look at more improvements in the system during a worldwide conference sponsored by the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence, located at Fort Lee, Va.
“Go 4 Green is looking at combining best practices from various nutritional and health-promotion campaigns together in one campaign,” Gouker said. “This conference will address that integration.”
For more information about the Go 4 Green program, go to https://quartermaster.army.mil/jccoe/Operations_Directorate/QUAD/nutrition/nutrition_main.html.
Located in the heart of the upper Midwest, Fort McCoy is the only U.S. Army installation in Wisconsin. The installation has provided support and facilities for the field and classroom training of more than 100,000 military personnel from all services each year since 1984.
Learn more about Fort McCoy online at https://home.army.mil/mccoy, on Facebook by searching “ftmccoy,” and on Twitter by searching “usagmccoy.”