Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today said child nutrition has a major impact on America's biggest priorities like national security and long-term economic sustainability, and investments must be made now to ensure the future safety and strength of the nation. Stabenow's comments came during the first in a series of hearings the Committee will convene as part of the larger effort to update child nutrition laws, which were last reauthorized in 2010.
Noting that more than 16 million children in the country do not have enough food to eat while childhood obesity rates have tripled over the last 30 years, Stabenow emphasized the statistics have a chilling effect when we consider the consequences.
"These trends are not just a threat to the health of America's young people, they are a threat to the future of our national security," Stabenow said. "Roughly 27 percent of Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 are too overweight to serve in the military, and the proportion of new recruits who failed physical exams during the past 13 years rose by nearly 70 percent."
"Today our military leaders are asking that we protect and strengthen school nutrition programs so that we can strengthen our nation's military preparedness and improve the long-term health of the next generation of Americans."
Stabenow also pressed that it's critical we make investments in strengthening nutrition programs as increases in obesity and weight-related diseases in children is having a rippling effect across all parts of the economy.
"It is estimated that the nation spends about $14 billion a year to treat obesity and preventable, weight-related diseases in children. Yet for 14 cents, we can give a child an apple. These are the critical types of investments we can make now to save billions down the road."
The hearing's witnesses spoke about the importance of child nutrition through the lens of major national priorities, presenting perspectives on behalf of military leaders, doctors and researchers, school leaders and parents and teachers.
Those who testified included General Richard Hawley, United States Air Force (Ret.), Mission: Readiness, Washington DC; Mr. Otha Thornton, President, National Parent Teacher Association, Fort Stewart, GA; Dr. Stephen R. Cook, Physician, Associate Professor, School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY; and, Ms. Yolanda Stanislaus, Principal, Francis Scott Key Middle School, Silver Spring, MD.