New report shows Safe Routes to School program strengthens future national security by helping youth become more physically active
ST. PAUL, MN (APRIL 24, 2014) – Retired generals from Minnesota met with state legislators today to urge them to support a bipartisan funding proposal for $6 million for Safe Routes to School infrastructure. They also released a new report from the national security organization Mission: Readiness entitled Walking, Biking…and National Security: America’s military needs healthier recruits from Minnesota.
“We care about this issue because childhood obesity threatens not only the overall health of America, but also the future strength of our military,” said retired U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Dennis W. Schulstad from Edina. “Being overweight or obese is the leading medical reason young adults cannot join the military, with more than one in five 17- to 24-year-olds too heavy to serve.”
Among the report’s findings:
- Regular physical activity can reduce the risk for obesity and help people lead longer, healthier lives, but half of high school students in Minnesota are not even getting half of the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity.
- The percentage of kids walking or biking to school, which can be an effective way to increase their physical activity, has dropped from 48 percent to 13 percent over the past four decades.
- The federal Safe Routes to School program provides important funding to make improvements to the routes children use to walk and bike to school, but has never adequately met the needs of Minnesota’s schools. In the last funding cycle, Minnesota schools submitted 63 applications for $15 million in federal Safe Routes to School funding, but only $6.7 million was made available.
- In 2012, the state legislature established a Minnesota Safe Routes to School program and in 2013, $250,000 per year was allocated to support planning for local programs.
“Creating the Minnesota Safe Routes to School program and providing initial funding for it is a good start, but we must do more to help meet the statewide demand,” said retired U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Harry Sieben, Jr., from Hastings. “When we make the healthy choice the easy choice and help youth become more physically active, we ensure that more people who want to join the military are fit enough to do so.”