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Defense plans healthy eating changes at military bases

In a move that could have substantial market impact, the Defense Department says it is going to change its nutritional standards for the first time in 20 years to emphasize healthy eating and will evaluate every military base in the country to make sure they're serving healthy food to those in uniform and their families.

The Defense Department is the single largest purchaser of food in the United States.

The standards will include more fresh fruits and vegetables, more whole grains and low-fat dairy products at every meal and improvements to the food served in dining facilities, school cafeterias, vending machines, snack bars, and other places where military families purchase food.

DOD officials made the announcement Thursday at a Little Rock Air Force event attended by First Lady Michelle Obama, who is on a three-day tour celebrating the two-year anniversary of her Let's Move anti-obesity initiative.

"This isn't just a drop in the bucket ... this is really a big splash," Obama said, according to a transcript of remarks released by the White House. "This will affect more than 1,000 dining facilities and nearly 1.5 million troops. Simply put, this is an example of America's entire military once again stepping forward to lead by example."

Brigadier Gen. Eden Murrie, director of Air Force Services, told the first lady that "we are working hard to make healthy sexy," according to a press pool report released by the White House.

Obama said, "A lot of people think eating healthy costs more. But time and again, the military has shown that you can do both."

She said the military could set an example for the country in healthier eating habits. "When you make healthy eating a priority in your lives, the rest of us are more likely to make it a priority in our lives," she said.

A DOD official said the department spends $1.4 billion a year on weight-related health problems for active and retired service people. Noting that an Army study showed that one quarter of the nation's 17- to 24-year olds are too overweight to serve in the armed forces and that even those who make the cut often struggle in basic training, Obama said that the military is spending more and more money on obesity-related injuries, health problems and dental care.

The military spends $4.65 billion on food per year. Officials are calling the changes the "“food transformation initiative."

In Dallas today, Obama announced that the School Nutrition Association and the American Culinary Federation have formed a new coalition to expand the Chefs Move to Schools program, through which chefs teach children about food choices and also train cooks in the schools.

"I’m counting on chefs and schools across the country to go to the site if they're interested, and we hope everyone is; we want them to sign up, and we want them to start cooking and working together," Obama said.