Publication Date: April 2010
Publisher: Mission: Readiness
Author(s): Mission: Readiness
Research Area: Government; Health; Military and defense
Keywords: obesity; military; accessions; overweight
Coverage: United States
Mission: Readiness, an organization of retired senior military leaders, is warning Congress that at least nine million 17- to 24-year-olds in the United States are too fat to serve in the military. That is 27 percent of all young adults. Obesity rates among children and young adults have increased so dramatically that they threaten not only the overall health of America but also the future strength of our military. The group is calling on Congress to take immediate steps to remove junk food and any remaining high-calorie beverages from our schools, noting that these products are major contributors to childhood obesity.
The report cites a new analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showing an alarming increase in obesity rates among young adults across the country. During the past decade, the number of states with 40 percent of young adults considered by the CDC to be overweight or obese has risen from one state to 39. In three states – Kentucky, Alabama and Mississippi – more than half of young adults are overweight.
Military concerns about the fitness of our children are not new. In 1946, General Lewis Hershey was instrumental in convincing Congress to pass the original National School Lunch Act as a way to improve the nutrition of America’s children, increase their height and weight, and ensure America’s national security.
Today, as members of Mission: Readiness, more than 100 retired generals and admirals are calling on Congress to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act with the following changes:
Allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture to adopt • new nutrition standards that will get high-calorie, low-nutrition foods out of our schools;
Support the administration’s proposal for adequate • funding to improve the quality of food available in schools and increase the number of children who have access to quality meals at school;
Deploy proven school-based programs that enlist • parents in helping children adopt life-long changes in their eating and exercise habits.
As retired U.S. Army General Johnnie E. Wilson says: “Child obesity has become so serious in this country that military leaders are viewing this epidemic as a potential threat to our national security. We need America’s service members to be in excellent physical condition because they have such an important job to do. Rigorous service standards are critical if we are to maintain the fighting readiness of our military.”