Healthy Food Becomes a National Security Issue

picture-29Every day there is more evidence that access to quality, healthy food in the United States is a serious issue. According to statistics, approximately 9 million people aged 17-24 are too heavy to enlist in the military, posing a national security issue.

Mission: Readiness is the nonprofit, bi-partisan organization led by senior retired military leaders ensuring continued American security and prosperity into the 21st century by calling for smart investments in the upcoming generation of American children.

"Improving nutrition in the nation's schools is a critical and necessary step to combating obesity among young adults," they report.  Retired U.S. Army General Johnnie E. Wilson says expands:  “Child obesity has become so serious in this country that military leaders are viewing this epidemic as a potential threat to our national security. We need America’s service members to be in excellent physical condition because they have such an important job to do.  Rigorous service standards are critical if we are to maintain the fighting readiness of our military.”

The why and how of childhood obesity can be culled from a number of sources; Mission: Readiness suggests that the public school system is an invested source of blame to the overall problem.  They're not the first to tag our public schools as a poor supplier of nutritious food. The subject has been of serious criticism for the past several years. It seems almost daily, new grassroots movements appear looking to better the public school food system to endorse healthy food.

With only a few exceptions, everyone can probably agree that the public school food industry is a complete disaster. In an economically stretched environment like the public school system, a penny difference per pound could make the difference between bad food or no food at all. And for some kids, bad food is at least food.

But for the majority of kids and their working-class parents, the calorie-dense foods they're getting from school is in addition to the calorie-dense food they're getting from home. If calorie-dense foods were only served in schools, the kids might have a little "love" on their bones, but not necessarily be unfit to enlist in the military.

So while it's in everyone's best interest to fix the school food system, it may be more important to focus on providing access to real foods the to homes that have school-aged children. But providing whole foods may not be enough. Instituting workshops on how to prepare whole food in a consumer landscape that primarily cooks from boxed, processed foods may be a more important function of healthy food in the lives of our children.

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