Retired Generals and Admirals See Obesity Epidemic as a National Security Issue

Calling the obesity epidemic among America’s young people a national security issue, a group of retired generals and admirals have begun a project called Mission: Readiness to urge the civilian sector to join the military’s effort to bring healthier foods to schools, dining facilities and vending machines. 

This letter from Lt. Gen Norman Seip explains:

I am one of more than 100 retired generals and admirals who supported the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act that Congress passed with bipartisan support in 2010.

The retired generals and admirals of Mission: Readiness know that the poor state of nutrition among children is more than just a national health issue. It is a national security issue and an economic security issue.

The Department of Defense reports that being overweight or obese is the leading medical reason why young adults cannot enlist, with 1 in 4 too overweight to join.

In a time of record deficits, the Department of Defense spends well over $1 billion per year treating weight-related illness among those who have served and their dependents. That pales beside the $150 billion annual medical price tag of obesity in the general population.

The experts at the Institute of Medicine and U.S. Department of Agriculture used the best-known dietary science and consulted widely with stakeholders around the country before establishing the updated school meal standards that have gone into effect this fall. Many schools are doing a creative job in making healthy meals appealing. We need to give the standards a chance to work and give kids a chance to adjust to eating more fresh fruits and vegetables and a little less sugar, salt, and fat.

Schools should not undermine parents’ efforts to instill better eating habits in their children.  Today, hundreds of retired generals and admirals stand alongside nutritionists and parents across America who believe that children deserve to eat healthful meals at school based on sound dietary science, not politics or special interests.

We need to keep in mind that the childhood obesity crisis is serious and is not going away. Any retreat from these new standards would mean turning our backs on the obesity crisis and on the future well-being of our children. With 1 in 4 young adults too overweight to serve our country in uniform, failure is not an option.

Some voices in Congress are intent on blocking and/or rolling back all efforts to decrease calories and increase nutrient density in foods. As noted in a Think Progress article about Mission: Readiness:

Some Republican lawmakers stand in stark disagreement with the generals’ call to regulate nutrition standards in school lunches. Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), for one, does not believe that schools should provide lunch programs at all. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) — who has referred to efforts to cap calories in school lunches as “the nanny state personified” — claims that constituents have told him “kids are starving in school” and introduced the No Hungry Kids Act to remove the calorie limits on school lunches that are currently in place.

However, even with the current calorie limits, junk foods in school lunches already account for almost 400 billion calories — which, according to the generals’ study, would weigh more than the aircraft carrier Midway if converted to candy bars.

h/t The Schwartz Report