Don’t let new school junk food rules get derailed

Friday, June 7, 2013

Imagine this: You are a 15 year-old standing in front of a school vending machine, getting ready to satisfy the snack craving you've had since first period. But lo and behold, instead of cookies and chips, every one of the slots behind the glass contains the same healthy stuff your mom and dad fill the cabinets with at home.

That vision could soon be a nationwide reality, thanks to updated nutrition standards from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which sets guidelines for the types of foods that are sold in our public schools. The standards are important because students consume about 400 billion calories from junk foods they buy at school every year. This is especially troubling because 33 percent of U.S. children and adolescents are on the way to becoming overweight or obese, and 25 percent of children ages five to 10 exhibit early warning signs for heart disease.

As a retired U.S. Coast Guard admiral and member of Mission: Readiness, a nonpartisan national security organization, I'm especially concerned about the impact of obesity because it’s the leading medical disqualifier for military service; one in four young Americans is now too overweight to join the military. The military recognizes this as a national security issue as our armed forces depend on individuals who are physically fit to serve.

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