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Is Child Obesity a National Security Issue?

Advocacy group's report urges Congress not to backtrack on updating school nutrition standards.

Citing a new report documenting the impact of obesity on America’s military, a group of more than 450 retired admirals and generals have urged Congress to not backtrack on or delay updated nutrition standards for foods and beverages served and sold in schools. The report, Retreat Is Not an Option, was released by an organization called Mission: Readiness and includes state-by-state data from the Department of Defense purporting to show the number of young adults who are likely to be ineligible to join the military. The report also notes obesity has become the leading medical reason why more than 70% of young adults nationwide cannot qualify for military service and spotlights its negative impact on active duty personnel as well.

Among the findings…
• Obesity rates among active duty personnel rose 61% between 2002 and 2011;
• 12% of active duty service members are obese;
• The military spends more than $1.5 billion annually treating obesity-related health conditions and replacing those discharged because they are unfit;
• More than a quarter of young adults ages 17 to 24 are too heavy to serve in the military.

The School Nutrition Association (SNA), which has been urging greater flexibility in implementing the school nutrition standards called for in the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, took issue with the Mission: Readiness report, arguing it "mischaracterized both the impact of the new standards on school meal programs and the scope of the regulatory relief requested by School Nutrition Association and other groups." The group charges that the rules "have contributed to a decline in student lunch participation, increases in food waste and financial instability in many school meal programs."

“School nutrition professionals have been on the forefront of combatting childhood obesity by improving the nutrition and quality of school meals,” said SNA CEO Patricia Montague, CAE, in a formal response to Mission: Readiness' report. “SNA and its members recognize the importance of healthy school meals to student success and wellness, and we strongly support maintaining limits on the fat and calories in school meals and requiring cafeterias to offer larger servings and a wider variety of fruits and vegetables. The regulatory changes we are requesting would ensure students continue to receive nutritious meals that contribute to healthy diets.”

TAGS: K-12 Schools
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