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According to a government watchdog report, the United States military dining facilities aren’t following guidelines that aim to offer nutritious meals for service members, and the Pentagon has not done necessary annual reviews of those food programs in roughly a decade.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) report highlights that the “Go for Green” initiative, established in 2008, has not been fully implemented in many military dining facilities. This program uses a color-coding system (green for healthy, yellow for occasional, and red for rare consumption) to help guide food choices. However, the GAO found numerous instances where color and sodium codes were either missing, inconsistent, or incorrectly placed, indicating a significant gap in compliance.

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GAO investigators reviewed 19 dining facilities across eight military installations nationwide, discovering that 16 of these facilities had not provided necessary training for staff on the Go for Green program. The investigation also revealed that healthier menu items were often substituted with less nutritious options or outdated recipes, undermining the intended health benefits. The report emphasized that offering nutritious food is crucial for maintaining military readiness, as poor nutrition can impair service members’ health and fitness.

Additionally, the report noted that fast food outlets on military bases outnumber on-base dining facilities, which often have limited operating hours, making it difficult for service members to access nutritious meals. For instance, one installation had 47 nonappropriated fund food venues open from 5:00 a.m. to midnight, compared to 14 dining facilities, most of which closed by 6:00 p.m. Efforts to innovate and provide convenient dining options, such as pre-packaged meals and drive-thru windows, have been introduced in some facilities. However, these innovations frequently do not meet the required nutritional standards.

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The GAO also criticized the Pentagon for failing to conduct annual reviews of dining programs since 2014 and for not establishing a leadership group to oversee nutrition improvements, as promised by September 2022. The report issued 16 recommendations, urging the Defense Department and military branches to implement annual assessments and adhere to existing nutrition standards to ensure the effectiveness of their nutrition programs.


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