Advocates for healthier school lunches have found an unexpected ally on Capital Hill ... the military. In fact, in a new report released by the retired officers of Mission: Readiness, many American children are so overweight from being fed French fries, hot dogs and other unhealthy foods at lunchtime that they cannot handle the physical requirements of being in the military.
The group contends that the sharp rise in obesity rates for young people over the last 15 years is not only bad for children; it's bad for the country, threatening national security as these children grow up to become adults who are "too fat to fight" for their country. Weight problems are now the leading medical reason that recruits are rejected, and thus jeopardize the military's ability to fill its ranks.
According to the report's numbers, 9 million young adults, (27 percent of all Americans ages 17 to 24,) are too overweight to join the military. So the retired officers were on Capitol Hill last week advocating for passage of a wide-ranging nutrition bill that would make school lunches healthier.
And, surprisingly, this isn't the first time the military has stepped in to promote better nutrition in school lunches. During World War II, military leaders had the opposite problem, reporting that many recruits were rejected because of stunted growth and inadequate nutrition. After the war, military leaders pushed Congress to establish the national school lunch program so children would grow up healthier. The program, established in 1946, was enacted "as a measure of national security," according to the original bill language.
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