100 Retired Generals and Admirals, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Urge Congress to Pass Child Nutrition Bill As Matter of National Security

Press Release

By:  Thomas Vilsack
Date: Sept. 21, 2010
Location: Washington, DC

Today, More than 100 retired generals and admirals released an open letter to Congress today calling on the House and Senate leadership to move before September 30 to pass a child nutrition bill to help reduce child obesity and expand the pool of young adults qualified for military service. To view the open letter, go to www.missionreadiness.org

The national security organization MISSION: READINESS released the open letter to Congress during a media conference call featuring Rear Admiral Jamie Barnett US Navy (Ret.), U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and American Heart Association Chair Debra W. Lockwood. Admiral Barnett represented MISSION: READINESS. The speakers discussed the importance of Congress passing strong legislation that will help to remove junk food from schools, improve nutritional standards and provide more children greater access to healthy foods. To view the open letter and listen to the media conference call, go to www.missionreadiness.org

MISSION: READINESS released a report called "Too Fat to Fight" in April of this year, showing that an estimated 9 millions young adults, 27 percent of all Americans age 17 to 24, are too overweight to join the military. The group says improving nutrition in the nation's schools is a critical and necessary step to combating obesity among young adults.

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. Today, retired military leaders are expressing similar concerns about obesity and urging Congress to pass a strong child nutrition bill before the programs expire and Congress adjourns for the November elections.

"Our country is facing another serious health crisis. Obesity rates threaten the overall health of America and the future strength of our military," Admiral Barnett said. "We must act now, as we did after World War II. We cannot afford to raise another generation of young adults where one in four is too overweight to serve their country."

"Improving school meals is a priority not only to ensure our kids can better learn, but it is also critical to our nation's future security," said Secretary Vilsack. "It is imperative that Congress continues their efforts to pass the Child Nutrition Act so we can improve the overall health and nutrition of our kids."

Research shows that up to 40 percent of what children consume every day takes place during school hours and that 80 percent of children who were overweight between the ages of 10 to 15 were obese by age 25. The child nutrition legislation includes provisions that can get junk food out of schools, nourish more kids who need healthy meals and motivate them and their parents to adopt healthful eating and exercise habits. The retired admirals and generals of Mission: Readiness join other groups in urging Congress to send to the President robust child nutrition legislation before it expires on 30 September.

"The time to act is now," said Debra Lockwood, C.P.A., American Heart Association Chairman. "With childhood obesity linked to a range of health problems in adulthood including heart disease and stroke, we can no longer afford to have our children consume junk food and meals that lack nutritional quality in schools. Congress must approve the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act before the programs expire at the end of this month."

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