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Why you should care about food if you care about freedom

After World War II America became the undisputed superpower due to our strong military, economic, political and cultural power. Culturally, freedoms on which we pride ourselves, such as the freedom of speech and freedom of the press allow citizens to live in an open, democratic country. The United States also has the largest economy in the world and we have a strong capitalist political history.

However, we’re losing steam. The first decade of the 21st century saw a huge economic recession and now we’re at risk of losing a strong military presence. I’m not suggesting that war is good, but particularly after 9/11, we want to ensure our safety and have the ability to fight for our freedom.

Recently, the U.S. military has experienced lower rates of enlistment. Of those who do want to enlist, about 75% aren’t eligible. The army estimates that about 27% of young Americans (17-24 years old) cannot enlist because they’re too heavy to successfully complete basic training.

Let’s consider the impact in even greater detail:

  • The teens most likely to enlist are middle or low income.
  • The people most likely to be obese are from middle and low-income zip codes.
  • Being overweight is now the leading medical reason for rejection.
  • The number of recruits rejected due to weight rose 70% in about 15 years.

Personally, I would never join the military – it’s not for me. However, it provides benefits to some people that outweigh the risks. For many, it’s a chance to go to college for free, it’s a chance to see the world or to ensure health care coverage. It provides learning opportunities and structure that individuals might not otherwise have.

If our economy fails and our military falls, we’re at risk of losing everything. Military leaders have called for the revision of school food policies as a way to provide more healthy and nutritious food. I don’t want the military to keep wasting our tax dollars on training and dropping recruits (which costs about $60 million per year), nor do I want health care to cost millions in tax dollars either!

Food and policy is the answer to (some of) our problems. It’s not the end all, be all solution but clearly, the importance of changes to our food system extends beyond what we’re eating for dinner.

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