Will a hot lunch be the downfall of the Republic?

Yesterday saw news stories about a new group of retired officers who’ve started an organization called Mission: Readiness that wants to address the problems of a limited pool of recruits available to the services because of failure to meet height and weight standards for entry.

National security is threatened by the sharp rise in obesity rates for young people over the last 15 years, the group Mission: Readiness contends. Weight problems are now the leading medical reason that recruits are rejected, the group says, and thus jeopardize the military’s ability to fill its ranks.

In a report released Tuesday, the group says that 9 million young adults, or 27 percent of all Americans ages 17 to 24, are too fat to join the military. The retired officers were on Capitol Hill advocating for passage of a wide-ranging nutrition bill that aims to make the nation’s school lunches healthier.

As a recruiter, I faced this problem fairly often. Some guys (and girls, of course) were so obese, it was a waste of my time to talk to them. They would never overcome the challenge of losing enough weight to enter. Why should I try to talk them into joining when they would never be eligible?

Other cases, borderline folks, were a different matter. Some were dedicated to joining and would put in the effort to lose weight and meet the standard. Other folks, well, they liked what I was selling, but not that much.

Of course, being fat wasn’t the only disqualifier for service. There were myriad other medical conditions that would preclude entry. But I’m not a doctor, so while I would screen applicants for potential problems, I’d make the doctor justify not letting them in.  There were times when it seemed there was no rhyme or reason to which conditions were unacceptable, and others were fine. But if I knew of any issues, and had the records to explain them, I’d have a much better chance of my applicant being accepted.

As a rule of thumb, we figured that only about one third of any graduating high school class was qualified to enlist- mentally, morally, and physically. That didn’t even address their desire or propensity to enlist. So you can see what a challenge finding qualified enlistees was. As the population gets fatter and more sedentary, it will continue to become more difficult.

On a side note, while perusing the comments on this topic at Lex’s place, one of the commentariat linked this little gem.

6 thoughts on “Will a hot lunch be the downfall of the Republic?”

  1. Well, you saw my response then. I stand by it. It’s not that the fatbodies are getting bad food in school (though that doesn’t help), it’s that they’re not running around outside. You can’t stop them from eating too much outside of school, and you can’t stop them from being sedentary outside of school. But you can make the little fat bastards run around while IN school.

    And as a fatbody, I wanted in the Army bad enough that I put forth the effort and shed the thirty pounds required. Army standards were harsh enough that I had exactly two weigh-ins where I did NOT get taped (one was fresh out of basic, the other was when my 5’4″ squad leader measured me as 6’2″). I only failed tape once, lost 10 pounds and an inch off the waist in a month and never got back on the fatboy program.

    But yeah, I can understand that most folk aren’t as motivated as I was.

    1. I think you’re right about the lack of physical activity. The elementary school where the author of “Fed Up With Lunch” does not have recess, and they only have gym class once a week. According to that teacher, this is not an uncommon state of affairs. It boggles my mind that people can cluck their tongues and wonder why we are seeing a rise in childhood obesity — and the health problems that will follow them into adulthood — when the trend is to expunge nearly all opportunities for kids to “run around outside,” as you say.

  2. But… but… but… we can’t have recess or school fitness program! That takes away funds from essential classes like theatre, cabaret, choir, pottery, and Late Neolithic-style basket weaving!

  3. I’m a fairly recent graduate of the American public education system, and it wasn’t that bad where I went to school. I’m from central Iowa and we had to test twice a year on general fitness. If we failed, we failed gym. Which was an F and a massive drag on people’s GPA.

    I had the pleasure of getting the music kids into shape. Sucked at first, but once some of those girls shed the extra 10-20 they were carrying… mmhmm. 😀

  4. We had a mandate to take a certain number of hours of PE in HS, but NJROTC was an acceptable substitute. Still, once I knew I was enlisting, I took a PE course my final semester. It was a wise choice. I wasn’t nearly in shape for Basic, but I wasn’t hurting half as bad as I would have been.

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