WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 25, 2012) – James A. “Jamie” Barnett, Rear Admiral, US Navy (Retired), representing more than 275 retired generals and admirals who are members of Mission: Readiness, joined First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today to announce new nutrition standards for meals served in America’s schools.
“Obesity is the leading medical reason why young adults are unable to join the military, with one in four too overweight to enlist,” said Admiral Barnett. “The retired generals and admirals of Mission: Readiness strongly supported passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and today’s announcement is an important step in helping reduce calories, fat and sodium in school meals so our obesity crisis does not become a national security crisis.”
The interest of military leaders in school nutrition is not new. During World War II, the military found that at least 40 percent of rejected recruits were turned away for reasons related to poor nutrition. This issue became an important part of the conversation shortly after the war when Congress looked to establish a permanent national school lunch program. As a result, the original child nutrition law was passed partly because it supported national security.
“Today we face a similar crisis — only it is not malnourishment, but improper nourishment, that threatens our national security interests,” said retired four-star Air Force General Richard E. Hawley, who is also a member of Mission: Readiness. “Considering that many children consume as much as 40 percent of their daily calories during school hours, improving the nutritional value of school meals will have a profound impact on their future health. Efforts to improve school nutrition and get junk food out of schools are critical to reducing childhood obesity and ultimately improving national security.”