Release | March 25, 2021

Mission: Readiness Applauds Congressional Focus on Crucial Issue of Child Nutrition Reauthorization

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Mission: Readiness applauds the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry for holding today’s hearing on a reauthorization for key child nutrition programs. The hearing, “Child Nutrition Reauthorization: Healthy Meals and Healthy Futures,” was the first Senate hearing on the operation of programs, including the National School Lunch Program, since their current authorization expired in 2015.

For over a decade, the retired admirals and generals of Mission: Readiness have warned that childhood malnutrition, which often manifests as obesity, poses a looming threat to our national security. Mission: Readiness helped to lead the fight for passage of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which created healthier school meals, critical in the fight to reduce growing rates of child obesity, a leading medical barrier to military service. The law updated and improved programs including the National School Lunch Program (originally created in 1946 due to the negative impact malnutrition had on military eligibility), the School Breakfast Program, the Summer Food Service Program, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

As today’s hearing made clear, however, the fight against the childhood obesity epidemic is far from over. The past decade has seen increases in obesity rates among young people, increases in obesity and injury rates among service members, a decrease in deployability, and, perhaps most concerning, a decrease in the number of young people who are eligible to serve their country if they so choose.

“The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the cracks in our food system and showed how many children and families in our country continue to struggle with food insecurity,” said Mission: Readiness member Bob Besal, a retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral and the final commanding officer of the USS AMERICA Aircraft Carrier. “Congress must act to build on the progress made through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and identify ways to adapt and modernize child nutrition programs so that they can serve more young people.”

Mission: Readiness urges Congress to build upon today’s hearing by continuing to support bipartisan action to improve access for all youth to fresh and nutritious foods year-round, modernize nutrition education, and foster efforts to promote the purchase and consumption of more fruits and vegetables in the home. Such a commitment will lead to healthier American children and strengthen our national security.

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Mission: Readiness is the nonpartisan organization of nearly 800 retired admirals and generals focused on mitigating the major barriers to enlistment, including America’s child obesity crisis. Since 2009, Mission: Readiness has championed evidence-based, bipartisan state and federal public policy solutions that are proven to prepare our youth for successful lives and to be able to serve their nation in any way they choose.

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