Battle Ready, Earth Friendly: Empowering Military Communities with Sustainable Food Solution

Photo By Vernishia Vaughn | Soldiers with the Arizona National Guard load boxes with fresh produce at a local food bank in Phoenix, Ariz., May 21, 2021. The AZNG continues to support food banks and vaccination sites across the state during this COVID-19 emergency response.

UNITED STATES

04.03.2024

Story by Bernard Little 

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center  

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2nd Lt. Brookelyn Heiss

Editor’s note: Army 2nd Lt. Brookelyn Heiss is a dietetic intern in the U.S. Army Baylor Master’s Program in Nutrition at Walter Reed.

Despite advancements in logistics and technology, ensuring food access and ensuring food security for service members and their families remains a challenge.

Military families often face unique challenges related to food access and affordability, particularly when stationed on remote bases or deployed to remote locations with limited access to fresh, nutritious food. Additionally, frequent moves or deployments can disrupt food routines and make it difficult for families to maintain healthy eating habits.

Given the challenges faced by service members and their families, the importance of sustainable food systems and the development of dietary routines by military families to promote food sustainability is important. There are many ways that service members and their families can promote sustainable food practices including supporting local food sources, meal planning and reducing food waste.

Choose Local Foods

Fostering a sustainable dietary lifestyle goes far beyond the table, it starts with making informed decisions on the foods we consume. Prioritize including more plant-based foods, whole grains, and locally sourced ingredients. A great place to begin is by exploring local foods by participating in farmers’ markets, community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs, or direct farm-to-table initiatives. Whenever feasible, opt for locally-grown and seasonal produce. Take the initiative to discover what foods are currently in season in your area and plan your meals based on these foods. Supporting local farmers, allows you to reduce carbon emissions by decreasing transportation requirements for local foods and supports keeping sustainable agricultural practices within your community.

Meal Plan with Local Foods

While prioritizing locally-sourced ingredients is often the initial focus for developing a more sustainable diet, meal planning is also an important part. Identifying meals in advance can help to minimize food waste and ensure that ingredients are used prior to spoilage. Consider batch cooking and meal prepping to save time and reduce waste. By planning ahead and making thoughtful choices about what we eat, we can reduce our environmental impact while supporting our health and well-being.

Mindful Eating and Portion Control

Practicing mindful eating and buying habits along with portion control can all contribute to reducing food waste. Avoiding overbuying or preparing excessive amounts of food that might lead to food waste. When eating at a dining facility, only select as much food as you plan to eat to avoid waste. Get creative in using your leftovers, add them to new recipes to change the flavor and retain the nutritional value. If you do over purchase or find that you are not going to use the foods in your cabinet, consider donating those packaged foods to local food banks or shelters. Meal planning, portion control, repurposing leftovers and donating foods will help you save money, conserve valuable resources and reduce your overall environmental footprint.

Get Involved in Promoting Food Sustainability

Finally, be an advocate for sustainable food options within our military communities. Engage with base leadership and support networks to advocate for the implementation of initiatives like on-base farmers’ markets, community gardens, and education on sustainable nutrition habits. Prioritizing sustainable practices such as local sourcing, waste reduction, and community engagement not only benefits the environment but also enhances food access, security and promotes resiliency for military families. By emphasizing sustainability, the military can ensure that service members and their families have access to nutritious, affordable food regardless of their location or circumstances, benefitting both our military community and the planet. Check with your local base websites to see what sustainable food practices they are promoting and how you can get involved.

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