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Watchdog finds problems with Pentagon’s nutrition program

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(The Center Square) – A federal watchdog reported problems with the U.S. Department of Defense’s nutrition program, noting that poor health and nutrition are “growing challenges that threaten U.S. military readiness and its ability to retain a fit and healthy force.”

Congress ordered the report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office as part of the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act. The Office of the Secretary of Defense and the military services have taken steps to implement a color-coded nutrition labeling program (green is high performance food, yellow is moderate performance, red is low performance). The GAO found 19 dining facilities at military installations it reviewed had not fully implemented the required program elements.

Eating healthy can be challenging for U.S. service members for many reasons. In July 2022, the DOD reported that 24% of active-duty service members experienced some level of food insecurity in 2019. Specifically, 14% of service members reported experiencing low food security, defined as reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet, while another 10% reported experiencing very low food security, defined as multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.

“DOD has taken steps to implement a key nutrition labeling program at its appropriated fund dining facilities, along with a range of key nutrition initiatives,” according to the report. “However, selected installations have not fully implemented then labeling program, and OSD has not fully addressed congressional directives on food transformation, including the establishment of a nutrition leadership structure. Further, OSD and the services have limited nutrition programs and initiatives for nonappropriated fund food venues.”

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