WASHINGTON – School lunches have been called many things, but a group of retired American military officers is giving them a new label: national security threat.
That’s not a reference to the mystery meat served up in the cafeteria.
The retired officers are saying that school lunches have helped make young Americans so fat that fewer of them can meet the military’s physical fitness standards, and recruitment is in jeopardy.
A report released today says more than nine million young adults, or 27 per cent of all Americans aged 17 to 24, are too overweight to join the military.
The officers are advocating for a wide-ranging nutrition bill that aims to make the nation’s school lunches healthier.
The officers’ group, Mission: Readiness, was appearing on Capitol Hill with Senator Richard Lugar and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
The military group acknowledges that other things keep young adults out of the armed services, such as a criminal record or the lack of a high school diploma. But weight problems that have worsened over the past 15 years are now the leading medical reason for why recruits are rejected.
Although all branches of the military now meet or exceed recruitment goals, retired Navy Rear Admiral James Barnett, a member of the group, says the obesity trend could affect that. “When over a quarter of young adults are too fat to fight, we need to take notice,” Barnett said. He noted that national security in the year 2030 is “absolutely dependent” on reversing child obesity rates.