Retired generals and admirals of the advocacy group Mission: Readiness document the impact that the nation’s childhood obesity epidemic has on military service in a new report entitled “Still Too Fat to Fight.” Referring to junk food in school cafeterias as a “national security issue,” their study estimates that roughly 25 percent of all American adults are now disqualified from military service due to being overweight.
The study calls on U.S. officials to do their part to address poor health standards in school lunch programs in an attempt to curb childhood obesity rates:
Finding ways to reverse our epidemic of obesity is crucial because the U.S. Department of Defense alone spends an estimated $1 billion per year for medical care associated with weight-related health problems. In a dramatic move to address this problem, the military is bringing healthier foods to its schools, dining facilities, and vending machines, but it cannot win this fight alone. The civilian sector needs to do its part.
The 300 retired generals and admirals of Mission: Readiness are joining parents and nutritionists in strongly supporting new efforts to limit the sale of junk food in our schools. Removing the junk food from our schools should be part of nationwide comprehensive action that involves parents, schools and communities in helping students build stronger bodies with less excess fat. We need action to ensure that America’s child obesity crisis does not become a national security crisis.
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.