Support for Healthy School Food in National Defense Bill

June 24, 2010

At first glance, H.R. 5136, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011, may seem an unlikely place to highlight the importance of child nutrition. The bill’s purpose, “to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2011 for military activities of the Department of Defense,” does not seem to be directly related to obesity or child nutrition.

But, as HSC's Mark Bishop explained in a recent blog, the connection is not too far of a stretch:

. . . 75 percent of 17 to 24 year-olds are not eligible to enlist in the armed forces. There are many reasons for this, but one of the most significant is obesity. This made me think that the more things change, the more things stay the same. Prior to World War II, military and government leaders became concerned with the health of army recruits: as a whole, they were malnourished.  . . .

We currently have a 60-year-old system designed to get more calories to a malnourished student population, delivering too many calories to a student population facing record levels of obesity. Just as the National School Lunch Program was established to deliver more calories to malnourished children, it must now be adapted to provide the kind of healthy meals that can help this generation of children develop healthy eating habits for a lifetime.

Last month, the US House of Representatives voted in favor of an amendment to this military spending bill to demonstrate support for adequate funding for healthy school food in the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act. The amendment includes a statement that “hunger and obesity are impairing military recruitment and must be properly addressed.” The bipartisan amendment was offered by Representatives James McGovern (D-MA), Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO), and Sanford Bishop (D-GA).

Both the House and the Senate are moving forward with reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act and we need advocates from every community — from education to health to national defense — to speak up about why healthy school food matters. Click here to raise your voice.