‘Better for You’ Foods Score Commissary Spotlight

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The Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) is planning to rearrange products in a handful of stores in an effort to highlight healthier foods that meet a “better for you” set of qualifications. They also plan to add a separate “gluten free” section.

Right now it’s hard to tell just by looking at the selection of product options which are healthier than others. Even an “organic” label doesn’t guarantee a lower sugar or saturated fat content.

That’s where the new arrangement comes in. Commissary officials plan to put in place an “integrate and segregate” system where shoppers can easily identify the healthier choice while looking in the same section they’ve always visited for a specific product. In the cereal aisles, for example, the agency will place a similar but lower sugar cereal option next to the higher sugar counterpart.

The agency came up with the guidelines for the healthier highlights by using the standards from the Hudson Institute, an independent policy research organization. Those standards are also being used by the Defense Department for their Healthier Base Initiative.

The criteria include that sugar is less than 10 grams per serving in breakfast cereal and that saturated fat in an product is less than seven grams per serving.

The agency will also be replacing some of the snack and junk food check out displays with the healthier options.

“We’re drawing on the best that the grocery industry has to offer to make commissary shopping fit the needs of our patron base, and being physically fit and healthy is a major component of military service,” said Rogers Campbell, executive director of the agency’s Sales, Marketing and Policy Group. “As the provider of the commissary benefit, DeCA is taking the initiative through this effort to help make it easier for our patrons to reach their health and fitness goals.”

The rearrangement is being done as a pilot “demonstration project” at a hand full of stores for the next year. Officials plan to exapnd it eventually, but don’t yet have a set timeline in place.

You’ll be able to see the new arrangement at Fort Meade, Md., Fort Bragg, N.C., Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. and March Air Resrve Base, Calif. by the end of the year.

About the Author

Amy Bushatz
Amy is the editor in chief of Military.com’s spouse and family blog SpouseBuzz.com. A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for Military.com where she is the managing editor of spouse and family content. An Army wife and mother of two, Amy has been featured as a subject matter expert on CNN.com, NPR, Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC and BBC as well as in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Follow her on twitter @amybushatz.
  • hc.conn

    I think its great that commissaries are thinking of the incredibly small minority of shoppers with celiac disease (about 1% of the total population) and are making a special, helpful section for them! My aunt has celiac disease and I know that she would really appreciate this being done. I look forward to other special, medically relevent sections in commissaries, perhaps a selection of foods reccomended for diabetics or a special peanut free section for the much more common nut allergy?

    I assume that’s what they are doing, right? Supporting those with an actual disease and not just following a fad diet with no basis in reality? Because if its the latter I wouldn’t really trust their “healthy choices.”

    • Amy_Bushatz

      As a paleo eater I can’t totally agree with the “fad diet” characterization of gluten free. Yes, there are plenty of people who do GF without knowing why. And, frankly, I wouldn’t touch most of the GF options because they are made with other ingredients I avoid (soy, for example). That being said, I am looking forward to this because hopefully it will inspire them to expand their offerings of other healthy alternatives (unsweetened coconut flakes, dry roasted nuts, chicken broth with no added sugar are three examples).

  • K. Bales

    I paid my first visit to a commissary in many years last month. I was absolutely abhorred by the prices. I have always understood that the commissary system was designed to save the service member money, and that is exactly what it used to do.

    I now live 200 miles from nowhere in a small town in the middle of a desert. Imagine my surprise when my long anticipated trip to the commissary proved to have prices higher than the regular prices in my small, locally owned grocery. Add on the surcharge, and the few items that I bought actually cost me more than I would have paid for them at home, as Nevada has no sales tax on food items.

    As both a veteran and the widow of a veteran, I believe that yet another way to help me maintain a standard of living above the poverty level has been stolen from me. I don’t begrudge my late husband’s first wife his pension, as I feel she earned it for spending 20 years as a single parent. However I do believe that I should have received his life insurance to help pay for his funeral expenses. The simple cremation with no service, which is what he wanted, cost over $3000, none of which was reimbursed.

    I lost 3/4 of my income the day my husband died, and saving money is paramount. Our annual trip to the commissary made a big difference in our grocery budget, but no more. This veteran will never go back.