The General Services Administration (GSA) has awarded a contract to I.L. Creations of Maryland, Inc., to provide dining services at the State Department’s Washington, DC, headquarters building in the first iteration of a newly developed healthy eating template for federal dining facilities. The initiative, a joint creation of the GSA and the White House Offices of Management & Budget and Health Reform, seeks to promote wellness among federal employees by providing healthier and more sustainable food options in onsite foodservice locations.
The operation at the State Department will integrate a farmer’s market and feature locally grown produce and market baskets, as well as menu options that are prepared using healthy cooking techniques and a nutrition education program that will encourage employees to make healthier food choices.
"Providing healthier food options is an important piece of a government-wide program aimed at helping federal employees recognize the importance of overall wellness and make healthier food choices,” says Ezekiel Emanuel, the White House's Special Advisor for Health Policy. “We also wanted to use the purchasing power of the federal government to make it financially viable for the food and cafeteria suppliers and contractors to integrate more wellness, health, local sourcing, and environmental sustainability considerations in designing their food offerings for all customers."
Working with the Department of Agriculture, GSA established nutritional requirements incorporating wellness factors into a national contract template. The new wellness factors and nutritional requirements include the use of healthy cooking techniques in food preparation to minimize trans fatty acids and added salt, menu variety to address special dietary needs, programs to educate patrons on product lines available and proper portion sizes, use of whole grains and other healthy food items, and use of technology and other services to promote wellness. Additionally, sustainable factors are also included encouraging use of locally and organically produced foods, purchasing of products made from renewable materials, encouraging the use of green cleaning products, and implementing responsible recycling and composting programs.
"GSA is leading the way in sustainability by introducing a new national template for federal cafeterias that provides healthier food choices for the one million federal employees across the country," says Stephen R. Leeds, GSA Senior Sustainability Officer. "Through the new State Department contract and other food service contracts in federal buildings, GSA will help drive the market toward more sustainable, healthier, and locally-grown food options to provide a better workplace experience that government employees deserve."
GSA manages more than 350 federal cafeterias either under commercial contract or operated in conjunction with the Department of Education's Randolph-Sheppard Act. The agency's plan is to phase in the new criteria for healthier, sustainable options as current food service contracts expire and to aggressively approach opportunities to enhance services in current contracts where there is consumer demand and support from the vendor.
As part of this wellness initiative, GSA is also committed to providing healthier food snacks in vending machines and sundry shops in federal buildings. During a recent pilot program at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, vending machines that featured healthier snacks and beverages showed that two-thirds of total sales come from the healthier options.