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How to Offer Great Nutritional Support for First Responders at Your Agency

Date:Saturday January 2, 2021

The combination of experiencing stress and being very busy can be a tough one for making great nutrition choices. First responders are often limited in the time they have to get food as well as the options available to them. Quick calories often come with a lot of sugar or saturated fats or caffeine, all of which are fine in moderation but may ultimately be counterintuitive for the difficult work that first responders need to do.

 

Keeping the strength and stamina of first responders high while also supporting their holistic nutritional health is something that agencies can do to lighten the load for their teams. If you’ve traditionally provided snacks or if your teams buy groceries together, you have the room to influence nutrition in a way that can help prevent injury and discomfort over time as well as giving your employees the needed energy for their challenging work.

  • Remove Barriers to Great Nutrition: given the health-related training that most first responders have, they don’t necessarily need more information to eat well, though if your team requests a nutrition seminar or training, that’s a great choice. Instead, look at what stands in the way of healthy choices: is it hard to keep fresh fruit or veggies in your workplace because of a lack of refrigeration? Are there traditions of less healthy foods being offered during work-provided meals? Often the challenge is a cost-related one, so explore what options your office might have for healthier alternatives that include more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean protein.
  • Think Local: Whether you work with a local farmer’s market to get discounted vegetables after the market is done or purchase a share in a Community-Supported Agriculture program, many times a local connection can help you get access to more fruits and vegetables while also building positive PR for your agency. It may be more expensive than grocery store shopping, but you can either work out a discount or only purchase it as often as the budget allows.
  • Stock Alternatives After Speaking With Staff: Changes around the office can be small at first: you can start by, for instance, providing plenty of options for tea so that those who want to cut back on caffeine can have an alternative to coffee or soda. Talk with your staff to see what their current favorites are and what their aspirations are, nutritionally: if the bottled drinks in their vending machine are all healthier alternatives that they’ve helped to select, for instance, they are more likely to hit their goals.

 

Resources for Offering Nutritional Support at Your First Responder Agency:

  • Hopkins Medicine’s guide for eating healthy when you have no time acknowledges the challenges of supporting good nutrition and may inspire your agency’s choices.
  • A scientific study in the Journal of Emergency Medical Services discusses “Nutritional Psychology,” and it’s impact on EMS workers. It’s good to think about how nutrition is deeply psychological, a battle of the mind.
  • This history of USDA Food Guides helps us see how our mental ‘food pyramids’ have actually been changed over time and with new research.

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