Many youth are not fit for military service and the government is making the case that the food students eat in school may be the cause. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the fact that so many youngsters are not fit for military service is a wake-up call for this country. A report released by a group called Mission: Readiness says 75% of all Americans ages 18 to 24 cannot join the military because they are overweight or have other disqualifying issues.
The report said the recession has made it easier for the military to find ample recruits. But administration officials and retired military leaders say the obesity problem poses long-term challenges when the pool of recruits shrinks. Nationwide, 42.5% of men and women in that age bracket are obese or overweight, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. State rates range from a low of 33% in Utah to 55% in Kentucky.
The USDA is pushing Congress for additional authority to help fight childhood obesity. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, pending in the Senate, would allow USDA to restrict what can be sold in school vending machines, as well as cafeterias, and subsidize improvements in the nutritional quality of meals. The School Nutrition Association, which represents the school officials responsible for school meals, wants more funding from Congress.