Photo Credit: Kelly Wallace
Michelle Obama has been talking up fruits and vegetables for two years now and her message has apparently been received loud and clear by the U.S. military. For the first time in 20 years, the military is changing its nutrition standards, which means more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lower fat entrees will soon be available at the 1,100 dining facilities around the world for service members.
“This isn’t just a drop in the bucket, this really is a big splash,” said Mrs. Obama at Little Rock Air Force Base, the second stop in her three-day, five-city tour celebrating the second anniversary of her Let’s Move campaign to fight childhood obesity. The changes, she said, will impact 1.5 million men and women in the military every day.
Put another way – “We are working hard to make healthy sexy,” said Brig. Gen. Eden Murrie, director of Air Force Services at Little Rock Air Force Base. Yes, it is the quote of the day!
The U.S. military spends a whopping $4.65 billion on food, and as much as $1.4 billion per year on obesity related issues from health care costs for families to the cost of creating pre-boot camp programs for overweight and obese recruits, Sam Kaas, assistant White House chef and senior policy adviser for the Healthy Foods Initiative, told the traveling press corps. More than one quarter of 17- to 24-year-olds in the U.S. are too overweight to serve in the military, according to the White House. In addition, Kaas said the military is facing issues it hasn’t faced before – huge dental costs because of too much consumption of sugar and fractures and injuries to kids because they’re not getting enough physical activity.
“This is not just a diet issue,” said Mrs. Obama. “This is truly a national security issue.”
Little Rock Air Force base was chosen as the site for the announcement, because it and the rest of the Air Force are leading the way when it comes to adopting healthier standards. The other services are expected to implement the standards, which are very specific such as requiring two fruits and two vegetables offered at every meal, over the next year, said Kaas.
The military had been reviewing the health of its troops before Let's Move. A group of retired generals investigated the mission readiness of the U.S. military and created a report titled, “Too Fat To Fight.” The name really says it all. But even though the military was already working on this issue, there is no doubt that Michelle Obama’s focus on health and nutrition made an impact. Thus making today--standing alongside the military and announcing changes that will impact the 1.5 million service members in the military every day--a pretty impressive moment for the first lady, who has faced criticism from conservatives who think she’s telling Americans what they can and cannot eat.
“When you make healthy eating a priority in your lives, the rest of us are more likely to make it a priority in our lives,” said Mrs. Obama, who commended the airmen for eating their fruits and vegetables. “You look good,” she said to laughter.