By Jason Knapfel
There are many things that our nation worries about in regards to protecting our freedoms. According to a U.S. military group, there's a national security threat that many of us aren't even aware of.
A group of retired military officers has targeted school lunches as a serious threat to U.S. security. School lunches have contributed to making our country's youth so obese that fewer of them can meet the physical fitness standards of our military. The result puts military recruitment efforts in serious jeopardy.
"When over a quarter of young adults are too fat to fight, we need to take notice," says retired Navy Rear Admiral James Barnett Jr., a member of the officers group. He picked out the year 2030 as the year where national security is "absolutely dependent" on the reversal of child obesity rates.
While all of the branches of the military are currently meeting recruiting calls, Barnett is worried that could change if the obesity trend isn't reversed.
You may be surprised to know that this isn't the first time that the military has gotten involved in a debate over school lunches. However, the last time was when the military had the opposite problem. During World War II, military leaders reported that many of their 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. Oh, the irony.
"This is the future of our Army we are looking at when we talk about these 17- to 24-year-olds," says U.S. Army Recruiting Command's Mark Howell. "The sad thing is a lot of them want to join but can't."
The current group of military brass is urging Congress to eliminate junk food and high-calorie beverages.
The health food lobby could have screamed bloody murder that our food supply was a threat to national security. That may seem a bit hyperbolic at first, but not so much when you consider the multiple tours of duty our military personnel has had to endure the last 10 years. If we ever had to revisit a draft, would there be enough healthy recruits? This doesn't even touch on the fact that our healthcare system is nearly bankrupt, in large part to having a population that is increasingly obese.
By missing the ball, the food lobby could be held responsible for what amounts to only modest funding changes in our public schools' foods. Let's hope they learn to be more aggressive, and if need be, not afraid of scaring people into converting to their side.
Read these stories to learn more:
Infographic: Childhood Obesity Epidemic by the Numbers
The Great American Salad Bar Project to Improve School Lunches
US Soldiers Turn to Drastic Weight Loss Methods
By Jason Knapfel