Two retired Air Force generals and a school food-service director would appear, at first glance, to have little in common. But our experiences have led us to the same conclusion: America's childhood obesity epidemic must be reversed, and healthy school meals are critical to our success.
In Minnesota, more than 14 percent of children ages 10 to 17, and more than 25 percent of adults (including more than 1 in 5 adults here in Hennepin County), are obese. Obesity is also a leading reason why 69 percent of young Minnesotans are ineligible for military service.
What accounts for such alarming numbers? In short, too many children eat too much junk food and don't get enough exercise, trends that often continue into adulthood. In addition to the negative health effects, this problem threatens to diminish our military strength and our national security.
In 2010, Congress passed bipartisan legislation requiring the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to update nutrition standards for all food served and sold in schools. The updated standards took effect in 2012 and, as a result, students in Minnesota and across the country are being served healthier meals with more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.