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.



Rupesh Pawani
Rupesh Pawani7 years ago

The problem is hydrogenated fats, MSG, sweeteners and fizzy pop and other additives. These are the reasons why children become obese. These substances are almost always cheap food - cheap supermarket own brands, many parents buy their children. There's too much junk food around today. The people were poor, during and after the war, but because of bad food was not available at the time, mothers cook decent food for their families.
What is Obesity

Robin S.
Robin S.7 years ago

I am a college student and I am writing a research paper on child obesity&school meals. The National School Lunch Program was enacted in 1946. The program was considered necessary for national security. Figures from the SELECTIVE SERVICE revealed that 1/3 of men rejected for military service during World War II suffered significant nutritional deficiencies. The deciding factor has always been, How many healthy soldiers we have to go to WAR if we need them!

Karilyn K.
Karilyn K7 years ago

it's about more than just the military, health problems affect productivity in every area of ones life.

Lorelai R.
Lorelai Ross7 years ago

part 2 :

Everyone has b een frightened and conditioned to think that creeps and pedophiles are contantly shopping around looking for ways to exploit our precious children. Now, I am not saying they aren't out there, i just don't think that there has been an explosion of them in the last 30 years. I think we have about as many as we always had. We just see it brought to light and sensationalized more often. In your face media has a way of doing bad as well as good, and our kids are now buckled, protected, belted, helmetted, locked in, sat down, and held back. Some of this is really safer for them, some of it is not.

Lorelai R.
Lorelai Ross7 years ago

This is such a multi layered problem. (though first i want to add my contempt for the 'make our kids fit to go fight wars' idea).

jamie Oliver's show has really been a revelation. I have to say, thought, that the school lunches being given out in W.Va. on the show are a lot nicer, even though they are full of fat and empty calories, than the ones we had when i was growing up in the 70's and early 80's. And i mean the pre-Jamie meals. In our school district, three days a week we had 'potatoes and gravy' which was made of tiny kibbles of mystery meat in beigeish gravy over reconstituted potatoe flakes. With it were usuall a lump of canned pudding and a spoon of canned fruit, and a milk. We luckily had salad bar in high school, that was such a relief. Even if it was pretty much just a bowl of iceberg lettuce except on thurdays, when there was taco stuff to go on it. Hmm, i am digressing...

The other thing is that a lot of parents do not know how to cook. They honestly have no idea. They didn't have to help cook. or garden, or can food for winter. They didn't have adequate cooking/nutrition training in school themslelves. They just don't know How to do fresh food, and especially not quickly or cheaply.

The other thing is that kids do not run and play like they used to. Everything they DO do is 'helicoptered'. I am truly not sure that the world is any more dangerous than it was when i was a kid.

Jens Opgenoorth


Bette Mccracken
Bette M7 years ago

Jamie Oliver has some very good ideas for tackling this problem. I'm not selling his program, but his website has some great ideas. A lot of them start with re-teaching people how to cook with real ingredients.

Dorothy Dickson
Dorothy Dickson7 years ago

I have never seen so many babies sitting in pushchairs with bags of crisps, biscuits, lollipops etc. Growing up during WW2, the only food we got was what was put on the table at meal times. There were no extra snacks!

Sexy T.
Sexy Teoh7 years ago

We need to concern our healthy. This was very important. Thank you.

Ronald N.
Ronald N7 years ago

Excuse me for laughing, but I think we see all see the junk food out there and and those restaurants are always filled with people. I've never seen so much candy, pastries, high fructose, starchy fries and onion rings laced with oil. But for a lot of kids that's all they know.

But it's kind of strange that they mention that there aren't enough kids that will be accepted into the MILITARY!!!! Oh shucks, I miss the point. We need tough guys and gals that are physically fit to fight our wars. So let's get them fit for WAR! It would be enough to just get them FIT! I'm sorry, I can't keep a straight face. Next step. End the wars and start teaching the kids about peace and stay fit for peace!