Members of the Fort Meade community who shop at the installation’s farmers market can buy fresh produce, meats, baked goods and plants at reasonable prices.

The Fort Meade Farmers Market is one of about 20 projects that have been part of the installation’s participation in the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Healthy Base Initiative (HBI), a demonstration project that Fort Meade joined in September 2013.

HBI is part of Operation Live Well, a campaign aimed at increasing the health and wellness of the total force, including civilians and family members. Fort Meade is one of 14 DoD installations and sites that are being assessed for their ability to create environments that enable sustainable, healthy lifestyles.

The installation’s participation in HBI ended in June 2015, after which the garrison’s projects will be evaluated based on “how well they impacted behavior at Fort Meade,” said Scott Myers, chief of the Business Operations Division at the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation and the garrison’s lead for HBI.

The evaluations are being conducted by a group contracted by the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

According to the DoD web site, the assessments will provide a baseline review of what’s being offered to support not only improved nutritional choices, but also increased physical activity, obesity reduction and decreased tobacco use.

The results will be used to help DoD develop policies for the future that can be shared across the military and beyond installation gates. The Department will present the results of HBI to Congress in the fall. Congress will then determine the future of HBI.

Myers said the demonstration project was implemented in response to findings by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which estimates that more than 35% of adults and nearly 18% of children in the U.S. are obese.

“Obesity and tobacco use among U.S. military health care beneficiaries add more than $3 billion per year to the DoD budget in health care costs and lost duty days,” Myers said. “Failure to meet weight standards is a leading cause of involuntary separation from the military, and obesity in the civilian community may be limiting DoD’s ability to recruit qualified personnel.”

In addition to the farmers market, other Fort Meade projects that were spearheaded as part of HBI included the opening of the Army Wellness Center, Share Our Strength commissary tours, healthier food options at the Freedom Inn dining facility and the recent opening of the sally port at the Pepper Road gate.

Fort Meade also hired Nicole Lowry as the garrison’s new health promotion program assistant, tasked to revitalize the installation’s Community Health Promotion Council.

“I believe HBI has been a great success,” Myers said. “One of the things we learned is that we can include a health and wellness component into almost everything we do on a daily basis. Once we start doing that, we can create a culture focused on health and wellness, which should result in positive changes in behavior.”

Myers said the Fort Meade community’s response to HBI has been encouraging. “We have had overwhelming positive feedback on almost all of our initiatives, the top two probably being the farmers market and the Share Our Strength grocery tours [at the commissary],” he said. ‘The feedback was so positive, we intend to continue these programs in some form even after the demonstration project ends.”