(UNEDITED) As Americans prepare to celebrate Independence Day, we should be thinking about a recent report finding that the obesity epidemic is endangering national security. In the Mission: Readiness report, Too Fat to Fight, retired military leaders note that 75 percent of 17- to 24-year-olds are unfit for the military, with overweight and obesity as the primary medical reasons. The report calls for federal legislation to improve the nutritional standards of school lunches.
As a dietitian working to help schools add healthier foods, I strongly agree that the National School Lunch Program needs to be revamped to fight childhood obesity. The majority of meals served in schools exceed saturated fat targets set by the federal government.
A bill in the House of Representatives could help change that. The Healthy School Meals Act, H.R. 4870, would create a program that would reward schools for offering more fruits, vegetables, and healthy, low-fat vegetarian options. This is the best way to help schools fight obesity, comply with federal standards, and meet all children's dietary needs.
July 4 highlights national unity, which should include efforts to improve the health of our future generations. The security of our nation depends on it.
Susan Levin, M.S., R.D.
Director of Nutrition Education
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine