Wednesday, April 21, 2010

School Lunches Affect National Security?

It sounds like an Onion News piece, but there is a story up at ABC News called, "School Lunches Are a Threat to National Security, Retired Officials Say." A group called Mission Readiness: Military Leaders for Kids, claims that they have identified a

dramatic increase of obesity among young adults age 17 to 24 – a trend that is reducing the pool of healthy young adults available for military service.
They argue that healthier school lunches are needed in order to reduce problems finding physically fit military recruits. I find this line of argument both ridiculous and dangerous.

First of all, despite the supposed problems getting physically fit recruits, we seem to have had little problem filling the ranks of the armed forces. This appears to be a manufactured "crisis" based on nothing. Second, whenever someone advocates more government manipulation of the population, let alone children, for reasons of national security, that should be a cause for alarm. Consider this statement.

The reason school lunch reform is so key, Moore added, is that school is an environment in which "we can get to kids" and influence what they eat. At home, it's much harder to change these habits, she said.
"We can get to kids." I don't want the government deciding what my kids need to eat in order to make them good military recruits. How about if schools just provide a decent, balanced selection of food and let it go at that?

I also question another assumption behind this whole idea. Is there any evidence that school lunches have gotten unhealthier over the years? Were school lunches ten, twenty or thirty years ago healthier than they are now? I recall eating all sorts of junk food items when I was in school. Why are school lunches suddenly a big issue?


  1. School lunches have always been crap. It's just a wider variety of crap nowadays. I didn't grow up obese because I played outside, did chores around the house, and walked or rode a bike just about everywhere I went. Kids today do little if any of those things, and that's why they're fat.

    I'm a little bit less indignant about Mission Readiness in that I think there really is a problem. I believe the Army at least has had to raise its weight limits in order to meet its recruiting needs, and then it has to somehow get those chubby recruits into fighting shape. I'm sure it's harder than it was 20 or 30 years ago.

    That said, the solution is NOT more government or quasi-government intervention into people's lives. It always scares me when I sense the government is trying to take advantage of its control over schooling to attempt social engineering. This isn't the first time that has happened.

  2. "I didn't grow up obese because I played outside, did chores around the house, and walked or rode a bike just about everywhere I went. Kids today do little if any of those things, and that's why they're fat."

    Yeah, too many sit for hours on end playing video games, while eating snacks and drinking soda. I think that probably has quite a bit more to do with weight problems than fatty school lunches. Also it seems like more kids ride to school these days. When I was kid I rode my bike or walked, unless it was a total downpour.

  3. What really worries me about this, frankly, is that it (AGAIN!) absolves parents of the responsibility to care for their children. Feeding your children reasonably nutritious food seems to me to be one of the basic duties you consent to when you decide to become a parent, but now many children eat both breakfast and lunch at school, and many Democrats say their parents "can't" provide these meals for their children or "don't have the information" about nutrition and exercise that they need. WTF? What country are such people living in? I'm a librarian in a very small town in Idaho, and we have ample informaton about it available free to the public in both English and Spanish. My mom was a single parent who both worked full-time and went to college full-time (at the same time) and still managed to make my lunches to take to school because she thought school lunches were crap. So, I realize my personal anecdotes do not add up to data, but I find the "can't" and "don't have enough information" arguments to be utter bullshit. It's just another way for parents to foist responsibility for the care and feeding of their children off onto the state. One of the Atlantic writers--Clive Crook, maybe--said that maybe expecting parents to be responsible for their children was OK 30 years ago when the nuclear family was intact and so on and that it was "dumb" to expect parents to fulfill that responsibility now. The mind boggles.

  4. Julie,

    Good points. Personal responsibility is not exactly a plank of the Democratic party, or of any statist types.