SOURCE: Mission: Readiness

Mission: Readiness

September 14, 2015 12:38 ET

Over 375 Retired Generals and Admirals Tell Congress: Retreat Is Not an Option for Healthy School Meals

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwired - September 14, 2015) - As Congress considers the imminent reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, over 375 retired generals and admirals are sending a letter today urging lawmakers to maintain the healthy meal standards for our future national security.

Obesity is the leading medical reason why young Americans cannot join the military, with nearly one in three young adults ages 17 to 24 too overweight to enlist. In addition to recruiting challenges, the Department of Defense spends more than $1.5 billion annually treating obesity-related health conditions and replacing those discharged because they are unfit.

"A few weeks of boot camp cannot make up for a lifetime of poor eating and exercise habits," said Casey W. Coane, Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy (Retired). "Good nutrition starts at home, but many kids get up to half of their daily calories at school so it just makes sense to ensure they are eating healthy foods there, too."

For these reasons and more, hundreds of retired generals and admirals who are members of Mission: Readiness came out in strong support of the 2010 Child Nutrition Reauthorization, bipartisan legislation that required healthier school meals and snacks. School foods are no longer filled with fat, sugar and sodium, and instead incorporate fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Parents, major food companies, and the general public also support the healthier meal standards. Recent national surveys show that 86 percent of Americans support the school nutrition standards and 91 percent of parents support including fruits or vegetables with every meal. Major food companies have adapted to the standards and indicate that they are well positioned to continue producing healthier versions of food and snacks to fit within the nutrition guidelines. And a study in the journal Childhood Obesity showed that school administrators report widespread student acceptance of the healthier meals across all grade levels.

Although 95 percent of schools across the country are meeting the updated standards, some schools still need better equipment and more staff training. Since 2009, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded more than $185 million in grants for kitchen equipment and helped to share best practices at the local level. The retired generals and admirals support continuing these efforts as well as the School Food Modernization Act (S. 540 / H.R. 3316) to help schools prepare and serve healthy meals that kids want to eat.

"We urge all members of Congress to stand united to maintain the science-based nutrition standards in the Child Nutrition Reauthorization," said D. Allen Youngman, Major General, U.S. Army (Retired). "We should continue to support any schools that are having a tougher time, but like our armed forces, we should not stop when the going gets tough. When our children's health and our national security are at stake, retreat is not an option."

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