School lunch advocates have found a new — and certainly unexpected — ally in the battle for school lunch reform: retired military officers. A group called Mission: Readiness is holding an event today in Washington, DC along with USDA Chief Tom Vilsack to showcase its new report Too Fat to Fight [PDF]:
As retired Generals, Admirals, and other senior leaders of the United States Armed Forces, we know firsthand that national security must be America’s top priority.
…Being overweight or obese turns out to be the leading medical reason why applicants fail to qualify for military service. Today, otherwise excellent recruit prospects, some of them with generations of sterling military service in their family history, are being turned away because they are just too overweight.
We are calling on Congress to pass new child nutrition legislation that would (a) get the junk food out of our schools; (b) support increased funding to improve nutritional standards and the quality of meals served in schools; and (c) provide more children access to effective programs that cut obesity [emphasis added].
I first heard the news about obesity’s effect on the military back in November via Wired. But this linkage to the issue of school lunch reform is brand new. What an interesting wrinkle to have these officers shoring up reform’s right flank. How can anyone oppose school lunch reform now?
I also appreciated the historical perspective the group provides [PDF]:
This is not the first time the military has spoken out about the health of America’s children. In 1945, military leaders expressed concern about the poor health and nutrition experienced by many potential recruits, and Congress responded by creating the national school lunch program as a matter of national security.
I don’t know enough about the history of school lunch to evaluate this claim. But it’s certainly plausible.
Putting aside whether you think the goal of a healthy school lunch is to prepare our children for lives in the military, it’s still worth wondering if the battle for school lunch reform has perhaps turned the corner.