Obese American military personnel are a national security hazard and the first lady Michelle Obama, who has for two years lead a healthy eating and fitness program for children, calls for improvements in nutrition standards across the armed services.
The first lady along with the Department of Defense will make the announcement the new obesity and nutritional awareness campaign that aims to change nutrition standards across the services for the first time in two decades, on Thursday at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas.
The campaign aims to bring more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and food options lower in fat to 1,100 service member dining facilities in the coming months, according to a press release.
More than a quarter of 17- to 24-year-olds serving in the military are too overweight, and active military members are also increasingly becoming overweight, according to a Pentagon official which causes a "readiness problem".
"The Department of Defense considers obesity not only a national problem but a national security issue," Assistant U.S. Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Jonathan Woodson said in a conference to discuss the Obama’s visit to Arkansas and three other states to promote healthy eating. "About a quarter of entry-level candidates are too overweight to actually either enter the military or sustain themselves through the first enlistment."
"Our primary focus is on the health and well-being of service members, their families, and our retirees," Woodson said. "Obesity is a preventable problem which, if combated, can help prevent disease and ease the burden on our overall Military Health System."
Woodson said that the U.S. military spends about $4.65 billion in food services each year, as well as $1.1 billion a year on medical care associated with weight and obesity issues.
The First Lady is expected to announce the initiative as one that will more broadly encourage Americans to eat healthier, and Woodson is anticipated to describe the initiative as part of the government’s “legal and moral responsibility” to keep the military healthy, according to the statement.
Besides stopping in Little Rock, Arkansas, Obama will later head to Des Moines, Iowa then Dallas, Texas and will end her trip in Florida.
The military plans to revise menus and supply better healthier and lower fat foods in mess halls, vending machines, and snack bars on military bases
"Whenever our men and women in uniform step forward, Americans take notice. When our service members make healthy eating a priority in their lives, the rest of us are more likely to make it a priority in our lives," Obama said.
"Simply put, this is America's entire military once again stepping forward to lead by example."