Defense Commissary Agency named 'Role Model' in promoting fruits, vegetables

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Promoting the benefits of eating more fruits and vegetables to its customers has placed the Defense Commissary Agency in select company. DeCA was one of seven retailers to earn top recognition as a "Role Model" by the Produce for Better Health Foundation.

DeCA joined Ahold USA Inc., Food Lion Stores Inc., The Kroger Company, Safeway Inc., Schnuck Markets Inc. and SuperValu/W. Newell & Company as retailers achieving Role Model status for 2010. This level of recognition goes to stores that demonstrate commitment to increasing their customers' health awareness of the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables.

Karen Hawkins, the DeCA dietitian, accepted the award for the agency during the foundation's Role Model/Champion Recognition Luncheon April 1 in Monterey, Calif.

"DeCA has been actively promoting health, wellness and nutrition education and awareness through in-store events and online," said DeCA Director and CEO Joseph H. Jeu. "This recognition validates our hard work to exceed our customers' expectations in produce quality, variety, presentation and personal service."

To achieve Champion status, a retailer must demonstrate its dedication to promoting the health of their customers by doing the following:

* promoting messages that encourage customers to consume more fruits and vegetables;
* placing the "Fruits & Veggies-More Matters" logo on in-store signage; and
* linking to the "Fruits & Veggies-More Matters" website.

Retailers who reach Role Model status must fulfill all the requirements of a Champion, but also create other programs that support Fruits & Veggies-More Matters by promoting healthy eating, according to foundation officials.

DeCA officials promote fruits and vegetables year round, including holding an annual produce merchandising competition with the winning commissaries excelling in quality and team performance in areas such as creative displays, customer education events and increased produce sales.

"Whether customers are stocking up for family meals, school lunches or healthy snacks, or just making a quick stop for items at the peak of freshness, produce remains central to most shopping trips," said Chris Burns, DeCA's sales director.

Customers usually give the produce sold in military commissaries high marks. Results of DeCA's 2010 Commissary Customer Service Survey, completed by more than 20,000 customers, rated produce as 4.62 on a 5-point scale, its highest mark in the agency's history.

Commissary shoppers save an average of 31.7 percent on their overall grocery bills, compared to commercial prices. In addition, fresh produce frequently takes center stage at case lot sales or special "farmers market" events, which can deliver savings of 50 percent or more.

"Eating at least 2 1/2 cups of vegetables and fruits per day has been shown to reduce risk of heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer," Hawkins said. "And, if you are trying to lose or maintain weight, eating fruits and vegetables instead of higher-calorie foods is helpful."

The Produce for Better Health Foundation is a nonprofit organization in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control behind the Fruits & Veggies-More Matters national public health initiative.

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(Courtesy of the DeCA Office of Corporate Communication)