“Investing in our children's nutritional health is not only about the cost of a meal,” Stabenow said. “It's about investing in our nation's future and our most critical priorities: stronger national security, long-term economic strength, educational success, and the health and happy lives of our families.”
Among the panel who offered testimony was retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Richard Hawley, who told the committee that such initiatives to improve child nutrition were based in part from the experiences the military faced in Word War II, when malnourishment accounted for an estimated 40% of those who were disqualified for service.
“Unfortunately, 70 years later, nutrition remains a national problem and a problem for our military,” said Hawley, who currently serves on the executive advisory committee for the group Mission: Readiness, a nonpartisan organization of retired military leaders advocating for improving investments in the nation's children. “But the pendulum has swung a little, and the issue is now we have too many recruits who are obese or overweight.”
Hawley said approximately 1,200 first-year enlisted personnel are discharged each year because of weight issues.
The hearing comes in the wake of ongoing debate within the House of Representatives over a provision in that body's proposed agriculture appropriations bill to allow school cafeterias to opt out of federal nutrition standards requiring increased portions of fresh fruits and vegetables are served in school lunchrooms if doing so caused schools economic hardship.
Critics contend the requirements make it too costly for many school districts to comply, which they say has led to a number of them deciding to leave the program altogether.
Follow Steven Ross Johnson on Twitter: @MHsjohnson