Outside-of-box choices aid nutrition

| June 25, 2015 | 0 Comments
Capt. Heather Davidson peruses the produce section of the Fort Drum Commissary in hopes of finding some colorful veggies to fill her plate. (Photo courtesy Army News Service)

Capt. Heather Davidson peruses the produce section of the Fort Drum Commissary in hopes of finding some colorful veggies to fill her plate. (Photo courtesy Army News Service)

Kevin L. Robinson
Defense Commissary Agency

FORT LEE, Virginia — Health and wellness has a new champion at the Defense Commissary Agency with a new dietitian on board.

Deborah Harris, a registered dietitian with DeCA since mid-April, said her mission is to work with both the agency’s sales and store operations personnel to help in providing healthier choices for commissary patrons.

“My goal is to work the whole gamut of public health to try and promote behavioral change. That’s my passion,” said Harris, who is assigned to DeCA’s Shopper Insights division and works with them to help improve the agency’s focus on its patrons.

“So, I’m developing strategies for our customers that make the healthy choice an easier choice or perhaps even the default choice,” she said.

Harris, who has 12 years of experience in public health programming, integration, evaluation and policy development in the government, nonprofit and private sectors, has coordinated nutrition education and obesity prevention efforts across Michigan for more than 800 schools and 10 health districts.

She earned a master’s of Public Health degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and encourages honesty when people address their dietary habits.

“One thing that makes me a different dietitian is I don’t want to tell people what they cannot eat, but I do want them to be knowledgeable about what it is they’re eating,” she said.

As the DeCA dietitian, Harris wants to engage commissary patrons with nutrition and health and well-being messages through DeCA’s various communications channels, such as www.commissaries.com, Facebook, Twitter and other social media, and eventually a signature blog.

One of her first initiatives is a segment called “Thinking Outside the Box” embedded on the commissary sales flyer found on commissaries.com, where Harris takes the items on promotion and offers a cost-effective, time-saving, healthy meal idea.

“When it comes to food, the commissary is a significant presence on a military installation, and we want our patrons to know they can come to our stores for the products that support their healthier lifestyles,” said Rogers Campbell, DeCA’s executive director of Sales, Marketing and Policy. “As our dietitian, Ms. Harris will help us reinforce that message and further engage our patrons with ideas to make their meal choices even healthier.”

Harris said she is excited to be interacting with the military community, a place she admits to being quite comfortable. Growing up, she was a Navy “brat” whose late father was a career Navy officer who served in Vietnam.

Harris is also a former Army first lieutenant who served on active duty for four years, first as a dietetic intern at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and later as a dietitian at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

As a certified diabetes educator and maternal child health specialist, Harris said she is sensitive to the challenges today’s families face with childhood obesity and other health-related issues.

“The prevalence of diabetes is so high in America’s population,” she said, “and I am dedicated to decreasing the risk by focusing on obesity prevention and nutrient dense food – but doing so in a manner that is maintainable with healthy habit adoption that folks want to do because they feel they can and not because they have to.”

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To learn more about the Defense Commissary Agency, to check out the latest news, see what’s on sale, learn of food and product recalls, scan employment opportunities, read frequently asked questions and more, visit www.commissaries.com.

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Category: Community, Health

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