Earlier this week, the president signed into law the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which sets nutritional standards for food served in schools and will provide $4.5 billion over the next decade for healthier student lunches. When talking up the bill at a Washington, D.C., elementary school, Michelle Obama raised eyebrows by stressing that childhood obesity is not just a public health issue but a "national security threat," since one in four young Americans is too overweight to serve in the military. (Watch her comments below.) Are chubby kids really putting the nation in danger?
Yes, according to military brass: "Right-wing media figures" are mocking Michelle Obama, but her comments align with statements made by retired military officials, who "have indeed referred to obesity as a national security issue," says C.R. in Media Matters. Earlier this year, a non-profit group of over 130 retired military officials was quoted by ABC News singling out "unhealthy school lunches" as a "threat."
"Conservative media use signing of childhood obesity bill to continue their war on nutrition"
No, the First Lady's comments were disingenuous: A quick rundown of the numbers reveals that there's no real security threat, says Howard Portnoy in Hot Air. At last count, there were 1.4 million Americans on active duty and 75.2 million children in the U.S. Even if you discount the obese kids, there's still "a pool of 56.4 million able-bodied future volunteers." It's a "big mystery" why the First Lady would make such an "idiotic statement."
"The latest national security threat: Childhood obesity"
And you don't have to be especially fit to serve: Although the statistic the First Lady cites is accurate, it's also true that "military weight standards in the U.S. [military] aren't particularly demanding," says David Gardner in the Daily Mail. Young male recruits must have less than 26 percent body fat — "twice the fat carried by a young man in peak physical condition."
"Michelle Obama highlights new national security threat: Obesity prevents 25% of Americans from serving in armed forces"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How the South's ugly racial history is haunting ObamaCare
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- If Democrats abandon immigration reform after Tuesday's likely loss, they will turn 2016 into a debacle
- The real story behind Deliver Us From Evil
- Stop making fun of philosophy and read some philosophy
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- What if Leo Strauss was right?
- The culture war finally comes to the Catholic Church
- Israel's quiet doomsday submarines are almost ready
Subscribe to the Week