Retired Generals and Admirals Urge Elimination of Junk Food in Schools

Statement In Response To Release Of Interim Final Rule On Competitive Foods In Schools By Norman Seip, Lieutenant General, U.S. Air Force (Retired) On Behalf Of Mission: Readiness

The retired generals and admirals of Mission: Readiness support the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s efforts to improve the quality of snack foods and beverages sold in schools because of their potential impact on the nation’s obesity crisis and, ultimately, the pool of young adults who are eligible for military service. While many schools and school districts have made great strides in this area, children nationwide are still consuming about 400 billion calories of junk food at school every year–the equivalent of nearly 2 billion candy bars.

Why is this so important? According to the Department of Defense, an estimated 75 percent of all young Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 are unable to join the military, primarily because they are too overweight, too poorly educated, or have a serious criminal record.

We all know that obesity rates among children have increased dramatically in recent decades and this has affected who can join the military:

  •    One in four young Americans is too overweight to enlist.
  •    Being overweight or obese is the leading medical reason why young adults cannot join the military.

Addressing this problem at the earliest stages is key. The school environment plays a vital role in encouraging healthy eating and exercise habits among children that can last a lifetime.

The retired generals and admirals of Mission: Readiness strongly supported passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2010. This historic, bipartisan legislation required the U.S. Department of Agriculture to take two important steps related to child nutrition in school:

  • The first step was to update nutrition standards for school meals.
  • Today, the USDA is taking the second step of updating standards for snack foods and beverages sold in vending machines, school stores and à la carte items in the cafeteria.

This is critically important because children consume hundreds of billions of calories of junk food at school every year.

This should be part of comprehensive action, involving parents, schools and communities, to help children understand and make healthy food choices.

The bottom line is that the armed services must have a sufficient pool of fit young adults to draw from in order to field enough recruits with the qualifications needed to staff a 21st century military.

Let’s all work together to make sure that children have healthy snack choices at school so that America’s child obesity crisis does not become a national security crisis.

Read our report Still Too Fat to Fight