Retired Generals Shalikashvili and Shelton Hail Senate Vote on Child Nutrition as Step to Increase Pool of Qualified Military Recruits, Boost National Security
WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Retired Army Generals John Shalikashvili and Hugh Shelton, both former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, praised Senate passage of new child nutrition legislation saying the measure will help make the nation stronger by combating child obesity and increasing the pool of young adults available for military service.
"On behalf of Mission: Readiness and the 150 retired generals and admirals who support child nutrition legislation as a matter of national security, we are very pleased that the Senate has taken this important step in addressing the nation's obesity epidemic. Being overweight or obese is the No. 1 medical reason why young men and women are unable to join the military," said Shalikashvili and Shelton in a joint statement.
Earlier this spring, the non-profit military group Mission: Readiness, to which both generals belong, issued a report called "Too Fat to Fight," revealing that at least 9 million young adults -- 27 percent of all Americans ages 17 to 24 -- were too overweight to enlist.
"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 generals said. "The Senate bill includes provisions that can get junk food out of schools, nourish more kids who need healthful meals and motivate them and their parents to adopt healthful eating and exercise habits. The Senate's action is a giant step forward in helping make our country safer and healthier. We urge the Senate and House of Representatives to send to the President robust child nutrition legislation before it expires on 30 September."
In an op-ed in the Washington Post on 30 April, Generals Shalikashvili and Shelton noted that military concerns about the fitness of American children were not new. When the National School Lunch Act was first passed in 1946, it was seen as a matter of national security. At the time many military leaders recognized that poor nutrition was a significant factor reducing the pool of qualified candidates for service, the generals noted.
"Our country is facing another serious health crisis. Obesity rates threaten the overall health of America and the future strength of our military," the generals said. "We must act, as we did after World War II, to ensure that our children can one day defend our country, if need be."
While lauding passage of the legislation, Mission: Readiness' National Director, Amy Dawson Taggart, cautioned that further discussion will be needed to address issues raised by the SNAP offset used to pay for the bill (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as Food Stamps). "The battle for children's good health and nutrition is being waged not only at school, but also with families at home. We will continue to engage in the discussion about proper offsets as the process moves forward."
Retired U.S. Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from October 1993 to September 1997. Retired U.S. Army Gen. Hugh Shelton served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from October 1997 to September 2001. Both are on the executive advisory council of Mission: Readiness, a nonprofit organization of retired senior military leaders. For more information, go to www.MissionReadiness.org.
Mission: Readiness is the nonprofit, bi-partisan organization of senior retired military leaders ensuring continued American security and prosperity into the 21st century by calling for smart investments in the next generation of American children.