in its own installations. It has formed a childhood obesity working group2 that is considering changes to military bases, school menus, and the general environment designed to encourage more physical activity in children. Half of youth in military families join or consider joining the military, so addressing the problem begins with the families of active-duty personnel. Military officials are leading an effort to create standardized menus for child development centers to ensure that the centers are meeting children’s nutritional needs. DoD also is working to offer more healthy choices in vending machines, schools, dining facilities, its clubs, and other on-base locations that offer food.
The civilian sector can help the military solve the obesity problem by considering a range of options to combat childhood obesity, said Barnett. Schools are a good place to start, he suggested. Children may consume more than half of their daily calories during school hours, so improving the nutritional value of the foods and beverages served in schools can have a major effect on health (IOM, 2010).
Barnett pointed out that the military’s interest in school nutrition is not new. During World War II, 40 percent of rejected recruits were turned away for reasons related to poor nutrition (U.S. Congress, 1945). That issue became an important part of the conversation after the war when Congress established the National School Lunch Program. “Today we face a similar crisis and threat to our national security interest,” said Barnett.
Mission: Readiness strongly supported the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010,3 which provided a framework for changing the foods that are served and sold in schools. One provision of the act gave the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) the authority to update 15-year-old nutritional standards for school breakfasts and lunches to reflect the latest science on the subject. In turn, USDA’s proposed guidelines adhere closely to recommendations made by the Institute of Medicine to improve the nutritional quality of school meals (IOM, 2007, 2010).4
Barnett stressed that schools need the proper support to meet these higher nutritional standards. Many schools across the country lack the kitchen equipment needed for healthier cooking methods. For example, many school cafeterias still use antiquated ovens and deep fat fryers, and too few have salad bars. School food service employees need to be trained in
2For more information on the DoD childhood obesity working group, see http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=62753.
3Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, Public Law 111-296, 111th Cong. (December 13, 2010).
4In the months following the workshop, Congress voted on an agriculture spending bill (Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations, 2012, H.R. 2112, 112th Cong., 1st Session, November 1, 2011) that limits USDA’s use of funds to carry out some of the proposed revisions.