Top brass see reauthorizing school meals as urgent national security issue

By Agri-Pulse Staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, Sept. 21 – More than 100 retired generals and admirals released an open letter to Congress Tuesday calling on the House and Senate leadership to move before September 30 to pass the Child Nutrition reauthorization bill to help reduce child obesity and expand the pool of young adults qualified for military service. To read the letter, go to

The national security organization MISSION: READINESS released the open letter to Congress during a media conference call featuring Rear Admiral Jamie Barnett US Navy (Ret.), U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and American Heart Association Chair Debra W. Lockwood. The speakers said the legislation is needed to help remove junk food from schools, improve nutritional standards, and provide more children greater access to healthy foods.

MISSION: READINESS released a “Too Fat to Fight” report in April showing an estimated 9 million young adults, 27 percent of all Americans age 17 to 24, are too overweight to join the military. The group says improving nutrition in the schools is critical for combating childhood obesity.

This is not the first time the military has spoken out about the health of America’s children. In 1945, military leaders expressed concern about recruits' poor health and nutrition. Congress responded by creating the national school lunch program as a matter of national security. Today, retired military leaders are expressing similar concerns about obesity and urging Congress to pass a strong child nutrition bill before the programs expire Sept. 30 and Congress adjourns for the November elections.

“Our country is facing another serious health crisis. Obesity rates threaten the overall health of America and the future strength of our military,” Admiral Barnett said. “We must act now, as we did after World War II. We cannot afford to raise another generation of young adults where one in four is too overweight to serve their country.”

“The time to act is now,” said Debra Lockwood, C.P.A., American Heart Association Chairman. “With childhood obesity linked to a range of health problems in adulthood including heart disease and stroke, we can no longer afford to have our children consume junk food and meals that lack nutritional quality in schools.”

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