SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- According to the Department of Defense, 75% of 17-24 year olds are unable to join the military because they have a criminal record, did not graduate high school, or a lack physical fitness. It was against that backdrop that U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak visited the Coast Guard in South Portland to talk about child nutrition and fitness. Vilsak says that childhood obesity and hunger are national security issues because without a fit force, the U.S. cannot defend itself around the world.
"In order for this generational shift to take place, you have to get children at the youngest age," Vilsak said.
Earlier in the day, he visited Maine Medical Center to highlight some of the efforts the USDA is doing to curb obesity, like working with schools on healthier menus, working with farmers to allow low income people to use their supplemental nutrition cards at farm stands, and pushing supermarkets to open in neighborhoods that are considered "food deserts" because they don't have anyone who sells fresh fruits and vegetables nearby.
Vilsak also highlighted Maine's5-2-10 Let's Go! program in local schools. The program teaches kids to get 5 or more fruits and vegetables, limit screen time to 2 hours or less, engage in one hour or more of physical activity and have zero sugary drinks every day.
You can learn more about how to improve the health of your family on the Let's Go! website.
The USDA also has healthy eating tips on its Choose My Plate website.