School lunches have been getting a lot of attention lately, none of it good. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver says the food kids eat at school is crap. First Lady Michelle Obama is pushing for healthier choices on school lunch trays. And students themselves are complaining about the “nutrient-poor, calorie-rich” slop that is being served up daily in school cafeterias around the country.
Everyone seems to agree: The food our kids eat at school is unhealthy and a major contributor to the rising rates of childhood obesity. But could bad school lunches also be threatening our national security?
Mission Readiness, an organization of senior retired military leaders, believes they are. The group released a report today in which they claim that 27% of all Americans 17 to 24 years of age do not meet the military’s standards for fitness. Unhealthy school lunches, they say, are making young Americans too fat to fight. And while all branches of the military are currently meeting their recruitment goals, by the year 2030 we could see a serious shortage of the number of people qualified to serve and protect our country.
Mark Howell of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command agrees. “This is the future of our Army we are looking at when we talk about these 17- to 24-year-olds. The sad thing is a lot of them want to join but can’t.”
If the U.S. military involving itself in the dietary concerns of school children sounds a bit odd, it shouldn’t. The national school lunch program established in 1946 was, in part, a response to the large number of military recruits who were found to be unfit during World War II. Back then, however, many of these young adults were underfed and suffering from stunted growth. Oh, how far we’ve come.
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