31 May 2023
Today is Memorial Day, the day designated to honor those who have served us and laid down their lives to protect our freedoms. Not all of them perished in combat. According to the , of the 1,009 US active-duty military deaths in 2021, 235 (23%) were from illness and 335 (33%) were self-inflicted. And that’s not even taking into consideration our veterans.
Over a decade ago, retired military leaders called on Congress to tackle the problem of childhood obesity with their report, . They recommended new standards for school lunch programs, supporting adequate funding to provide healthy meals, and deploying evidence-based school programs that help students adopt healthier lifestyle habits.
It hasn’t worked. Currently over 20% of active-duty military personnel are considered obese and the pool of future recruits is diminishing. Perhaps this is for the want of trying. I was not impressed with the I found for Initial Military Training. Let’s just say I did not necessarily agree with their categorization of “high performance” and “performance-limiting” foods, as labeled on the menu.
Our military fights to protect our freedoms. And yet we are subjecting them to the same low quality standard American diet (SAD) as the rest of us. A breakfast that includes things like creamed beef and low-fat muffins?!? I don’t claim to know anything about military strategy, but I do know that the foods offered (even if healthier plant forward options are “available on demand”) are not giving our servicemembers the fuel they need for optimal health.
I know there are terrible things going on around the world and am grateful for the protections we often take for granted in this country. But I think we need to re-think our ideas about freedom when it comes to the food system. Consider: Freedom to choose wholesome foods that protect the planet. Freedom from marketing and political influence by food and drug manufacturers that control our food choices (even if we think they don’t - see earlier ). Freedom to be our best self - from the trillions of microbes in our gut to the mobility in our knees – all nurtured by the foods we eat and the activity we do.
Today, let’s honor all our US military personnel, mourning those who have died, and supporting life for our veterans, active-duty and future Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors.
Happy Memorial Day!