School Lunches, Obese Kids and a Military at Risk
First Lady Michelle Obama’s made the fight against childhood obesity a top priority; now the nation’s military brass is weighing in.
At least nine million 17 – 24 year-olds in the United States are too big to serve in the military — that’s 27 percent of all young adults, putting the future of our military force in jeopardy. The stern warning comes from a group of America’s retired generals, admirals and civilian military leaders:
“Being overweight or obese turns out to be the leading medical reason why applicants fail to qualify for military service. Today, otherwise excellent recruit prospects, some of them with generations of sterling military service in their family history, are being turned away because they are just too overweight.”
A report released by the non-profit group Mission: Readiness says that childhood years are critical to the formation of sound eating habits that can last a lifetime, and that millions of children eat breakfast, lunch, and additional snacks in school every day.
The group is calling on Congress to pass new child nutrition legislation that would
- get junk food and high calorie beverages out of schools by allowing the Secretary of Agriculture to adopt the Institute of Medicine standards for what can be served or marketed in schools;
- support increased funding to improve nutritional standards and the quality of meals served in schools, helping to deliver healthier, lower-calorie meals to more children, encouraging healthier lifelong habits;
- and provide more children access to programs that effectively cut obesity, delivering the education and encouragement children and their parents need to adapt healthier eating and exercise habits.
Junk food routinely makes its way to students in school through stores, snack bars, vending machines, and too many unhealthy options on a la carte menus. Almost half the states have no nutritional standards for foods served in schools.
It was military leaders who first warned about the health of our youth following World War II, after which the National School Lunch Program was enacted “as a measure of national security.” It’s time to take it to another level.
Eighty percent of children who were overweight at ages 10 – 15 were obese at age 25. Clearly, eating habits are formed early on and, while food provided in schools accounts for a share of the problem, parents must also shoulder a portion of the blame. Our obsession with fast food is deeply ingrained in our culture, as is our sedentary lifestyle.
In school and at home, children should be consuming more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables… and less in the way of high calorie foods with little or no nutritional value. Our kids are eating more than ever, but they are running on empty.
“Medical experts have warned that our children are on track to be less healthy than we are.” – First Lady Michelle Obama
We cannot afford to let this disturbing trend continue.
- Read the full report at: Mission: Readiness
- Sustainable food and nutrition issues will soon be covered on a regular basis in Care2 Causes’ new Food Channel, Real Food, launching soon. Watch for it!
- For more on educational issues, visit The Education Channel
- Blaming Ronald McDonald for Childhood Obesity