Perceptions of the local food environment among active duty Soldiers
Based on a 2008 U.S. Department of Agriculture survey, less than one-quarter of Soldiers met the recommended servings of fruit and vegetables. Research indicates conditions attributed to poor sleep, activity and nutrition (SAN) jeopardize readiness and place a burden on fellow Soldiers, the mission, and the entire Army. In order to enhance the Army’s readiness and resilience, the Army Office of the Surgeon General implemented a health promotion program to improve SAN.
This qualitative study is part of a larger program evaluation. Upon completion of the six-month pilot, an evaluation team conducted 58 focus groups with 366 Soldiers at three Army installations. Thematic analysis of focus group discussions in regards to the effectiveness of nutrition behavior change revealed emergent themes focused on perceived negative contributions of the military food environment to Soldiers’ nutrition behaviors.
Soldiers’ shared a common belief of self-discipline and personal responsibility as the foothold to nutrition behavior change. Soldiers depicted aspects of the military food environment as factors impeding achievement of optimal nutrition. Collectively, Soldiers perceived the proximity and density of fast food restaurants, lack of healthy alternatives on base, and the cost of healthy food as inhibitors to making responsible healthy food selections. Overwhelmingly, Soldiers also perceived time as a contributing factor to unhealthy food choices.
Although nutrition behavior is individually driven, Soldiers perceived the military food environment inhibits healthy decision-making. Further studies need to be conducted to evaluate and address environmental barriers that impede optimal nutrition in the Army.
Learning Areas:Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Environmental health sciences
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Describe active duty Soldiers' perceptions of their military food environment. Identify the environmental variables that contribute to Soldiers' perceptions of the military food environment.
Keyword(s): Nutrition, Built Environment
Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am extensively trained and experienced in qualitative research and evaluation with a background on health disparities affecting nutrition related issues.
Any relevant financial relationships? No
I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.