Mission: Readiness Urges Elimination of Junk Food in K-12 School Environment

STATEMENT IN RESPONSE TO UPDATED USDA COMPETITIVE FOOD STANDARDS

“Retired admirals and generals have been eagerly awaiting some common sense standards for school snack foods because kids are currently buying 400 billion calories of junk food at school every year,” said Lieutenant General Norm Seip, US Air Force (retired). “We fought hard to pass the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act because we are deeply disturbed by the fact that 1 in 4 young Americans are too overweight to benefit from the honor and achievement of military service. Today’s kids spend half of their life in schools – the path to failure shouldn’t be paved by all the cookies and candy and junk food they’re buying there.”

WHY DOES THE MILITARY CARE ABOUT CHILDHOOD OBESITY?

About 1 in 4 young Americans is now too overweight to join the military, and being overweight or obese is the number one medical reason why young adults cannot enlist.

The U.S. Department of Defense alone spends over $1.1 billion per year for medical care associated with weight-related health problems.

The military recognizes this as a national security issue – our armed forces depend on individuals who are physically fit to serve.

HOW DOES THE SALE OF JUNK FOOD IN SCHOOLS IMPACT THIS PROBLEM?

Based on a U.S. Department of Agriculture survey, 400 billion calories are consumed by children every year from junk food sold at schools. If converted solely to the calories in candy bars, this would equal nearly 2 billion candy bars, which would weigh almost 90 thousand tons – more than the weight of the aircraft carrier Midway.

Limiting the sale of junk food in schools isn’t a solution in itself. But the sale of junk food and sugary drinks in school vending machines and cafeterias works against national efforts to ensure students eat more healthfully and against efforts by parents to help children develop healthier lifelong eating habits.  We support the USDA in updating decades-old standards for these “competitive foods and beverages” to reflect the latest nutrition science.