Retired military see threat from obesity rate

by Jay Sjevern
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WASHINGTON — More than 100 retired generals and admirals on Sept. 21 sent an open letter to Congress calling on the leadership of the House of Representatives and Senate to move before Sept. 30 to pass the child nutrition bill to help reduce child obesity and expand the pool of young adults qualified for military service.

The national security organization Mission: Readiness announced the open letter to Congress during a conference call with the media that featured Rear Admiral Jamie Barnett, U.S. Navy, retired, speaking on behalf of Mission: Readiness, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Debra W. Lockwood, chair of the American Heart Association.

This was not the first time the military has spoken out abut the health of America’s children. In 1945, in the wake of World War II, military leaders expressed concern about the poor health and nutrition experienced by many potential Depression-era recruits, and Congress responded by creating the National School Lunch Program as a matter of national security.

In recent months, retired military leaders expressed similar concerns about obesity and urged Congress to pass the child nutrition bill before the programs it covers expire and Congress adjourns for the midterm elections.

“Our country is facing another serious health crisis,” said Admiral Barnett. “Obesity rates threaten the overall health of America and the future strength of our military. We must act now as we did after World War II. We cannot afford to raise another generation of young adults where one in four is too overweight to serve their country.”

Mr. Vilsack said, “Improving school meals is a priority not only to ensure our kids can better learn, but it is also critical for our nation’s future security. It is imperative that Congress continues their efforts to pass the Child Nutrition Act so we can improve the overall health and nutrition of our kids.”

Ms. Lockwood added, “The time to act is now. With childhood obesity linked to a range of health problems in adulthood, including heart disease and stroke, we can no longer afford to have our children consume junk food and meals that lack nutritional quality in schools. Congress must approve the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act before the programs expire at the end of this month.”

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