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Okinawa Marines test healthier chow-hall menu ahead of service-wide rollout

Marines and sailors stationed on Camp Foster await their self-created Oki-burrito at the Foster Mess Hall. (Lance Cpl. Erik S. Brooks Jr./Marine Corps)

Marines on Okinawa have been trying out healthy chow-hall options like packaged salads, wraps and flatbread and panini sandwiches ahead of a service-wide rollout slated for some time next year.

The new “Fresh Line” items — available at the 12th Marines Mess Hall at Camp Hansen since February — replace popular but fattening options like chili macaroni and cheese that are high in sodium and calories, said Gunnery Sgt. Maurice Clifford Toole, a food-services subsistence chief for Marine Corps Installations Pacific.

“Overall when you look at the new-age Marine, they do care more about a healthier lifestyle,” he said. “The newer Marine is more conscious about what they eat and what they put in their bodies.”

Turkey bacon is served instead of pork and brown rice is offered instead of white, which is lacking in nutrients. The menu also includes mango and fruit-punch smoothies.

“The Marine Corps actually hired a chef to create new menu items that were healthier but still had taste,” said mess hall manager Master Sgt. Jerwon Donta Stephens. “It’s easy to go healthy, but if it’s not tasty, no one is going to eat it.”

The ongoing trial period has been tracking the new line’s popularity, along with how much manpower and money will be required to keep it up and running. So far, the reviews appear to be positive.

“I prefer Fresh Line items instead of having any other processed foods,” Lance Cpl. Jacob Flores told Stars and Stripes while waiting for his food at the chow hall Friday. “I usually get wraps or chicken.”

The new line is part of the service’s “Fuel to Fight” initiative, which aims to make it easy for Marines to identify healthier food choices, the service said in a statement earlier this year. “Foods are color coded as either red, yellow or green based upon the food’s total fat and saturated fat percentage of total calories.”

Both Stephens and Toole said they hope the Fresh Line will encourage healthier choices at bases where an abundance of fast-food options can often be tempting.

“Our body is our temple,” Stephens said. “If our body is not functioning correctly, our body can’t get back to the mission.”


© 2018 the Stars and Stripes

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