Retired Military Leaders: School Nutrition Supports National Security | Letter to the Editor

Posted December 12, 2014 at 4:15pm

I applaud Melinda Bonner’s efforts to make healthier school meals work in her district (Congress: Don’t Turn Back the Clock on Healthy School Meals, Roll Call, Dec. 4). As a retired general from Alabama, I would like to add that improved school nutrition is also important for our future national security.

Obesity is the leading medical reason why 75 percent of young adults in Alabama and more than 70 percent nationwide are unable to serve in today’s military, according to data from the Department of Defense. In addition, 12 percent of active duty service members are obese based on height and weight and the military spends more than $1.5 billion a year on obesity-related medical costs and to replace those discharged because they are physically unfit.

Boot camp cannot make up for years of poor eating and exercise habits. Good nutrition starts at home, but schools can play a vital role since children consume up to half of their daily calories there.

That is why I have joined my fellow retired generals and admirals who are members of Mission: Readiness to urge Congress not to weaken or delay the updated school nutrition standards. When our children’s health and our nation’s security are at stake, retreat is not an option.

Dan Petrosky is a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general and a member of the national security nonprofit, Mission: Readiness.