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(Enlarge) Senior Airman Gregory Ferreira, a student at the Defense Information School, selects a healthy lunch of grilled chicken, salad and strawberries on April 4 at the Freedom Inn. The dining facility has overhauled its menu items for healthier choices as part of the DoD's Healthy Base Initiative and the Army’s Go for Green dining facility program. Both efforts are aimed at improving nutritional choices for service members. (Photo by Lisa Rhodes)

To entice young service members to eat healthy meals, the Freedom Inn launched its own Facebook page a month ago, highlighting nutritious and tasty meals.

The launch is part of the Freedom Inn's participation in the Department of Defense's Healthy Base Initiative, a yearlong demonstration project aimed at improving the health and wellness of service members and their families by reducing obesity and decreasing tobacco use.

"The food looks very appetizing on the page," said Christine Griggs, food program manager/contract officer representative at the Logistics Readiness Center. "We're doing everything we can to reach out to the troops. We hope they like [the Facebook page] and run with it."

HBI is part of the DoD's Operation Live Well campaign, which is aimed at increasing the health and wellness of the total force including civilians and family members.

Fort Meade joined the HBI demonstration project last September and is one of 14 Army installations to participate. Each of the installations will be visited by HBI project teams that will examine and measure the installation's ability to create initiatives that improve nutritional choices, increase physical activity and decrease tobacco use.

Best and promising practices across the installations will be shared throughout the DoD.

Although Fort Meade has been a part of the HBI for seven months, the Freedom Inn has been offering healthier food options for the past year.

Howard Mountain, program manager and dining facility manager, said he began changing the facility's menu as part of the Army's Go for Green initiative, a nutrition education program for Army dining facilities.

Go for Green provides a nutritional-recognition labeling system that provides Soldiers with a quick assessment of the nutritional value of menu offerings and food products in the dining facility.

The menu offerings and food items are labeled green (eat often), amber (eat occasionally), and red (eat rarely) based on the impact the food can have on a Soldier's performance, according to an Army website.

Since then, the Freedom Inn has replaced beef and pork dishes with more ground turkey, poultry and fish meals.

The breakfast menu offers less pastries and pork, and includes fresh fruit such as strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, mango and papaya. Whole-wheat breads are also served at breakfast.

For lunch, the Freedom Inn has been marketing healthier foods by expanding its salad bar and placing it at the front of the facility near the entrance.

The dinner menu is mostly the same as lunch, however the gourmet salad is not offered at dinner. The facility also has replaced its soft ice cream dessert with frozen yogurt.

All three meals are offered using the Go for Green labeling system.

The facility has been tracking the popularity of its healthier fare. Currently, about one-third of service members are eating green.

"They're [service members] pretty happy with the changes we've made," Mountain said. "I haven't had any complaints from any Soldiers in the past year about food choices and food items."

"I think it's going very well. HBI is pretty satisfied with what we're doing."

Mountain said that during a recent visit, a HBI project team told him that the Freedom Inn was "ahead of the game."

Senior Airman Gregory Ferreira, a student studying photojournalism at the Defense Information School, said he likes the menu changes.

"I really like what they offer here," he said. "I don't like to eat heavy so I can stay awake during class and I have energy throughout the day."

For lunch on April 4, Ferreira selected a salad with grilled chicken and a bowl of fresh strawberries.

"This is all about preventing long-term health issues," Griggs said. "If you eat healthy when you're young, you will be healthier as you grow older."

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