Retreat is Not an Option

Military soldier soluting the flag.

Healthier school meals and snacks are vital for addressing childhood obesity and supporting national security.

The Issue:

One in four U.S. young adults (ages 17–24) is too heavy to serve in the military. In some states, military ineligibility—the three leading causes of which are being overweight, lacking education, and having a criminal record—is above 70 percent in most states (ineligibility highest in Mississippi at 78 percent and lowest in Hawaii at 62 percent).

Among active duty forces, obesity is on the rise, up 61 percent since 2002, costing the defence budget one billion dollars a year in health care costs and half a billion dollars in recruitment costs to replace those unfit to serve.

Key Messages:

This report from Mission: Readiness, Military Leaders for Kids outlines some of the military’s efforts to address obesity among troops and their families. The nonprofit organization supports the key role that the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 nutrition standards play in assuring America’s school children eat healthier school meals with more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, and have snacks low in empty calories.

The more than 450 retired admirals and generals who comprise Mission: Readiness “are standing strong to keep school nutrition standards on track, because when our national security and our children’s health are at stake, retreat is not an option,” the report states.

This report is an update to Mission: Readiness's previous report, Too Fat to Fight, which detailed how weight and fitness problems often prevent young people from qualifying for the military.