healthy food preparation techniques. The need for equipment and training is well documented, Barnett observed. The last time Congress appropriated funds for equipment assistance grants, school districts around the country submitted almost five times as many requests as could be funded.
Maintaining a healthy weight requires exercise in combination with a proper diet. In particular, regular exercise from an early age can help young people improve their fitness and control their weight. Being physically active and maintaining a healthy weight also reduce the risk of injuries.
In addition to its work to get unhealthy foods out of schools, Mission: Readiness is promoting opportunities to get physical activity back into schools. Years, not months, are needed to build a strong body, Barnett emphasized, and the foundation for good fitness is laid in childhood and young adulthood, not right before a recruit reports to boot camp. Surveys show that parents overwhelmingly agree on the importance of providing opportunities for physical fitness in school, but parents currently have no standardized way of obtaining information on how much physical education their children are receiving. Enhanced reporting from schools on the quality and quantity of physical education would empower parents to decide whether their districts are doing enough to combat childhood obesity, Barnett said.
Investments need to be made up front to ensure the health of future generations, Barnett concluded. The military, businesses, communities, and individuals will pay the price of having too many young adults unprepared to do the work of the nation. “We all share responsibility, as parents, citizens, and leaders,” he said, “to make sure that our children are fit and healthy.”