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April 21st, 2010
07:33 AM ET

Too Fat to Fight

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="GETTY IMAGES"] More than a quarter of young adults are medically ineligible to serve in the armed forces, according to Mission: Readiness, a group of retired military officials. The main reason why young people are rejected from the service? Weight. The Mission is calling for Congress to pass a new childhood nutrition laws to remove school junk food and improve nutritional standards.

Our question: What’s the worst school meal you remember? And as a parent, how do you make sure your kids are eating healthy?

Filed under: Kyra Phillips
soundoff (50 Responses)
  1. Alicia

    Show them movies like Food Inc. My 5 yr old gets it! She and my 7 yr old opt for fresh veggies and fish! They understand chosing mayo over mustard! Water over juice, no brain surgery, most youths are visual. Make them understand what they are doing to their bodies. Maybe instead of sex ed, incorporate food education in school as a required course!

    April 21, 2010 at 7:53 am |
  2. Vince

    Worst school meal: sloppy joes. As a parent we make our kids lunches every night for the next day. That way we know they are eating healthy.

    April 21, 2010 at 7:57 am |
  3. Darrell S

    Public schools should be a place of safety, however, time and time again, we fail to provide the future with what they need to survive in the future. I've heard some people get upset at Mrs. Obama's stance on obesity, but this particular angle helps me see that this could be a matter of national security. If we care about the future, we need to treat it better.

    April 21, 2010 at 7:58 am |
  4. Dan

    i am retired Navy. With the way some of our chiefs and senior leadership look today (overweight) I don't know why it would be a problem to allow overweight young adults to enlist.
    They would fit right it. It's kind of the old adage: do as I say, not as I do. I always thought the Navy Chief set the example, but a lot of overweight personnel in the E-7 to E-9 ranks.

    April 21, 2010 at 8:13 am |
  5. Michele

    I worked as a substitute in the school cafeteria......mostly the primary/jr high......The lunches that are served to our children are nutritionally atrocious! Sure, there may be no more vending machines in the school cafeterias......but the school lunch is just as bad. It is nothing more than pre-made, preservative filled, sodium loaded, just nuke it and serve it garbage. They call a pretzel with cheese or a carton of nachos an entree. The chicken sandwiches are ALL breaded, not a single grilled chicken breast to be had. The stove NEVER gets used. The fruit is the large industrial can that is packed in high fructose corn syrup. Doesnt that defeat the purpose of the fruit being healthy? The public school system is not only making our children less intelligent.....they are contributing to the obesity problem with Americas children. Cooks should be required to do exactly that.....COOK! I havent seen the job description call for a school nuker......they are still called cooks....but they do very little of that.

    April 21, 2010 at 8:14 am |
  6. Michael Armstrong Sr.

    During the 60's and 70's our lunches were prepared by hard working lunch lady's we had nice hardy meal's sure there were some meals that were not all that good but not often we always had vegetables with our meals and fat kids were few .Now day's theres alot of lazy lunch people looking for a way to get the job done with little effort so they serve frozen pizza and hamburgers and the parents are just as guilty for being lazy when it comes to there kid's meal's .

    April 21, 2010 at 8:24 am |
  7. david

    shepard pie....worst lunch meal ever!!!!

    April 21, 2010 at 8:32 am |
  8. Czarx19

    I heard you mention how bad the salads were at these fast food places. Although this is true you should remind the public that those numbers reflect what you find in the salad dressing. So cut the dressing.

    April 21, 2010 at 8:33 am |
  9. Chuck

    Kyra, the childhood obesity problem has nothing to do with lack of activity. A recent study showed that kids actually get as much physical activity as they use to. They are all going to soccer, baseball and are out running the streets with their friends, going to raves etc... The difference is in the incredible amount of food that we are eating. Portions have more than doubled. There are vending machines around every corner.

    Another problem is, as we have gotten fatter, people's idea of what is considered fat or overweight has changed. We are a culture in denial. We need more education. 30 to 40 lbs over your optimal body weight is obese.

    April 21, 2010 at 8:34 am |
  10. Rebecca

    Worst food served in school and was forced to eat and seen twice.

    Green Pea Soup with Peanut Butter Bars

    April 21, 2010 at 8:34 am |
  11. joel

    hey im a student and i think it is a geat idea to get rid and replace the school food system. But they better not be like our school and get rid of some that is not that unhealthy and replace it with something is 10 times worst!

    April 21, 2010 at 8:35 am |
  12. Blake

    In high school, I remember the 'Meat Bucket'. It was essentially ground beef and macaroni noodles, mixed together. But the thing I remember the most was the ungodly amount of grease at the bottom; maybe thats why they gave us a spoon? As a parent, the only way I can feel confident that my children are eating a healthy lunch is to pack it for them. only occasionally I let them eat at school, but for the most part, I pack i myself. Usually a sandwich, a fruit cup, or apple, juice, sun chips or baked chips, and maybe a healthy dessert.

    April 21, 2010 at 8:35 am |
  13. Former

    Little of topic, but as an active duty Marine, CNN should look at the military chowhalls themselves. They are far from being bastions of health. Stateside the chowhalls served questionable selections and whilst the healthy servings might have been "healthy," i.e. the salad, it was rotten.

    Abroad in Iraq, I remember the chowhall serving chicken-fried bread. A slice of bread that had been deep fried. While the military is uniquely positioned to lead the fight for nutrition, we sure aren't taking care of our members as much as we could.

    April 21, 2010 at 8:36 am |
  14. LLW

    Let's get real. It is not just the food that is the problem, though you people obsess over it. School days are too short and there is not enough mandated PE. Quit harping on the food and stop enabling the development of eating disorders.

    You talk about getting kids away from the computer and yet you refuse to address the root causes. WE DON'T GET OUR KIDS TO MOVE IN SCHOOL BECAUSE IT IS CHEAPER TO CUT PE PROGRAMS.

    April 21, 2010 at 8:36 am |
  15. Ken Williams

    I cook at a school and want to know why sloppy joes are so bad. I use ground turkey, s&p, green peppers, tomatoes, & mustard. How is that unhealthy?

    April 21, 2010 at 8:37 am |
  16. Reddie

    School cafeteria food? One can't even get an unadulterated roast beef sandwich in one of those quick grab coolers. The meat is mushed with something then spread on bread. Everything in this country is processed. Seems that there has to be more of an advertising push that REAL is better than mush that is pressed into solid forms.

    April 21, 2010 at 8:37 am |
  17. Michele

    I know I already commented...but going to further add to what I have already said. The physical education system is also contributing to the obesity problem. My son.....who was a varsity athlete freshman-junior year....was in athletic PE those first 3 years. He did not play football his Senior year and was therefore placed in a regular PE class. He complained daily about the lack of cardio type activity. They would suit up and walk around town at a snails "social groups". I realize that not everyone is athletically inclined.....but there are activities that can raise the heart rate that do not require any athletic skills. He is leaving for college in the fall with a double major in Physical Education and Industrial Art with a minor in coaching.....He believes that nutrition should be taught in every PE class at least twice a semester.....making healthly food choices.

    April 21, 2010 at 8:38 am |
  18. james davenport

    My worst lunch was in high school we got three chicken nuggets and one scoop of macroni n cheese.if we wanted 3 more nuggets or a extra scoop of macroni then it was $1.40...

    April 21, 2010 at 8:38 am |
  19. Rachel

    The worst meal I recall is the option of middle school kids to eat cheese fries daily as thier entire lunch: many of us did. As a parent of a vegetarian child, the fat and meat contnt are both alarming. My child often takes a sack lunch from home or opts for the school`s "healthy" daily alternative of crackers and cheese, yogurt, applesauce and carrot sticks with cheese. It becomes a redundant lunch for her but at least it isn`t deep fried meat something or other and it`s a start.

    April 21, 2010 at 8:39 am |
  20. Andrea

    This is the most ridiculous story I've ever heard. If these kids are too fat to fight for our country it has nothing to do with what's being served in the cafeteria, and everything to do with their choices. I have three elementary age children, all of whom take a healthy lunch to school that I have prepared Mon. through Thurs. On friday they get the "treat " of buying school lunch, usually pizza and a salad.
    In most school districts parents can monitor their children's lunch choices online. So if they are selecting fatty processed foods their parents are at fault for not handling it. There are plenty of salads and other healthy items to choose from, if the kids don't see that as fun to eat their parents aren't doing their job at home. If parents would simply limit the video games, get a bike and make healthy choices these kids would be fine. Mental fitness is far more important than physical in the field and if you haven't been taught to make good choices for yourself, you aren't going to be a decent soldier. Get a clue people!

    April 21, 2010 at 8:40 am |
  21. Michael Armstrong Sr.

    Maybe the parents now days should practice the way of the old to get there kids motivated and give them chores to do when they get home from school this always works to get kids off the couch and outside .

    April 21, 2010 at 8:42 am |
  22. Vickie Johnson


    I didn't realize how bad my daughter's lunches were here in New Deal, TX until I went to have Thanksgiving lunch with her this past year. It was so bad I couldn't eat it. I usually can eat anything and I'm talking gagging bad. I tried to talk my daughter in to taking her own lunch, but she says if she takes her lunch everybody else eats at school and she won't be able to sit in the same area with her friends, which I think sounds kind of ridiculous. So... I just send her to school with healthy snacks, in case she gets hungry (I know I would), so she will have some good stuff. Something definitely needs to be done about school lunches. I use to watch you as a reporter in Lubbock and I'm sure you are even surprised to hear that New Deal's food is bad, but it is. I would suggests parents go to their child's school and eat one meal with them. Don't go on Friday, because that is the best day of the school week for lunch. Go on like, Tuesday or Wednesday. I think they will be horrified!!!

    April 21, 2010 at 8:43 am |
  23. Deborah

    At my elementary school we had the best pizza in the world, at least from my perspective at the time, until in the fifth grade they changed it. The cheese was like a rubber chew toy for a dog , as was the bread type product that was passed of as crust and when you pulled the cheese off in one big chunk, the bread had the texture of what reminded me of brains. I never looked at pizza the same again

    April 21, 2010 at 8:43 am |
  24. jerry5425

    To fat to fight. Right blame the schools is a good idea. Donot blame the military messhalls that do the same. Fat food at all meales. Spent 20 years in the service. The fat problem was a problem then but, when you go to fight, fat is okay.

    April 21, 2010 at 8:44 am |
  25. Naomi

    I went to a boarding school in Kenya and our staple food for lunch and dinner was beans and corn with very little oil and salt which by the way was full of weavels(tiny insects!!!). Once in a while we would get rice and beans. Breakfast was a cup of tea and 2 slices of bread. Now when I ask my son what he had for lunch and he says pasta and french fries I flinch. I think I would go back to my school food. I have gained 40 pounds since I got here 11 years ago. My new year resolution was to go back to non processed foods in my house and guess what, 10 pounds down already.

    April 21, 2010 at 8:45 am |
  26. Vickie Johnson


    Maybe where you live there are plenty of healthy choices at school, but not where I live. If we want our kids to be healthy, we have to send healthy food. Apparently your school district is better than mine. I don't think you should tell people to get a clue if you haven't been to every school in the U.S. I think our children should have better food choices at school and I agree with Jamie Oliver and have joined his website.

    April 21, 2010 at 8:49 am |
  27. Sandra

    Deep fried burritos, fries, cinnamon apples, with chocolate milk. You can imagine that was a favorite. Suggestion...Teach kids from grade school on up to live off the land. Go organic. Plant, grow, pick, and help plan school lunches. Work with local ranchers to raise organic live stock. My opinion, the students will learn (science, nutrition, business, mathematics, history, etc...), problem solve, be active, and take pride in their hard work. Not all learning takes place behind a desk. I'm not think a about a once a year trip to step in cow poop but lifestyle change for schools, a daily part of learning.

    April 21, 2010 at 8:50 am |
  28. Carl

    Our country should be ashamed of itself for first trying to demonize fast food restaurants for our collective bad health when they NEVER were serious about changing the food and diets in the public schools across our country. Suddenly it gets attention because the military cant recruit more kids to die for us because they are fat?! A motive of device instead of caring about our health. Hats off to Jamie Oliver who positioned himself among West Virginia fatties and taught them how to change their school lunch programs. Take a look and use as a model to emulate.

    April 21, 2010 at 9:04 am |
  29. Gary

    "Too Fat to Fight"... 40% of young men in 1941 were too under nourished to serve. What CNN didn't mention was that was largely caused by famine during the Great Depression years. Also in 1941 ALL served. The draft involved all socio-ecomonic levels; kids from rich families were just as likely to be drafted as poor kids. Not so today. Today we have "volunteer" armies so there is no universal nationwide outrage when bogusU.S. wars and invasions are implemented. "Volunteer" armies are generally created from needly lower income families, or from young men who can't find work.

    Military subcontractors and their Pentagon employed supporters don't want a draft because outrage over endless, never-ending wars affects their profit projections. Stockholders don't like it when wars end.
    They spew that drafted armies are ineffective.

    We won a global world war in 1945 with a drafted army in just four years.

    Google search: "Medal of Honor " with "drafted" and learn how many MOH were drafted. This should debunk that draftees are "ineffective"

    So if there's no draft, and these kids aren't volunteering, why is the issue being tied to "national security"? Limiting our public discourse and discussion of US involvement in endless regional conflicts by excluding the draft is the true threat to national security.

    April 21, 2010 at 9:05 am |
  30. Joanna Clark

    This is very unfortunate. It is hurting our country in two ways- our future population is becoming increasingly unhealthy and we are losing a valuable asset to our country's military. We should do more to provide healthier choices for our children both in and out of school and increase their fitness programs.

    April 21, 2010 at 9:19 am |
  31. Ricky

    Worst food-grilled ham and cheese sandwiches-
    Suggestion.....Parents need to teach their kids the proper nutrition. It should start at home! By packing their lunches, it gives them an idea of what is healthy. But, if parents are over weight and eat junk food all the time, most likely they won't pass proper health skills over to their children....and the kids will follow in their steps.

    April 21, 2010 at 9:31 am |
  32. Michael Armstrong Sr.

    Theres plenty of people thats not to fat to fight people just dont want to die for a lost cause .

    April 21, 2010 at 9:42 am |
  33. Rosalie Griffin

    The whole debate over childhood obesity has been over-simplified. It's not just the Tater-tots, folks.
    Don't be so quick to blame the computers and TV – many schools no longer have recess or PE. Kids may have a few minutes after lunch to go outside, but otherwise are in their seats for a third of their lives.
    As for the nostalgia for playing outside after school – working parents often need their children to stay inside and be safe until the parents come home, therefore the TV and computer use instead of rousing games of tag and hopscotch.

    April 21, 2010 at 9:56 am |
  34. Denise Neville

    My son is a 9th grader and has never eaten a school lunch. I pack his lunch fresh every day and include a sandwich or hot meal, fresh fruit usually an apple, small dessert, breakfast bar and a small snack for after school and a drink, juice, water or chocolate milk. He wanted to start an anti school lunch campaign among his friends in 4th grade because he thought then and still does that the school's hot lunches look and smell disgusting. I never influenced him with my personal opinion and quit offering the school lunch option long ago. He has no issues lugging his lunch box into the cafeteria every day. His friends are often intrigued by his sandwiches or meals and sometimes jealous. He is a healthy, slim 14 year old that enjoys good food and makes good food choices. No school lunch, no problem.

    April 21, 2010 at 10:10 am |
  35. Harry, Boise, Idaho

    The issue for me is that it simply won't work. It's fighting a problem at the wrong end: supply instead of demand. If you really want to stop illegal immigration, cut off the jobs and they'll stop coming. Enforce the laws against hiring illegals, game over. Truth is that few really want to cut off the supply of cheap labor. All the talk about border control is just BS. If you really want to stop it, it's frankly pretty easy. Levy a serious fine on anyone who hires an illegal. When they know that there are no jobs, they'll stop coming.

    April 21, 2010 at 10:37 am |
  36. D

    What does your comment have to do with the school lunch program and joining the military?

    April 21, 2010 at 11:02 am |
  37. ree

    I remember good smells coming from our lunch room cafeteria in the 60's , all the children get now is processed foods and greasy , bready, foods with no nutritional value, it all comes from a box or a can. I had real homemade foods when we were in school, it is a wonder children are still living with all the sorry junk they are getting fed in schools

    April 21, 2010 at 12:06 pm |
  38. Kody

    Everything we eat today that is already 'pre-made' food contains extreme amounts of Sodium and or Sugar. This is the reason Obesity is at an all time high. Families across America are becoming more and more lazy so they are fixing quick and easy meals. Schools are to blame also, they serve food that is actually bad for you when school is supposed to be a good thing! Huh, it is pretty simple to solve a problem like this..take all the sugar being produced and turn it into Fuel like the Brazilians. If we do not introduce these high salt and sugar diets they will never know what it is. It starts at home and ends in the educational system. Maybe we need to start growing our own crops at school to teach the value of it.

    April 21, 2010 at 12:17 pm |
  39. Greg

    Luckily, thanks to online fitness tools like, its easier than ever to get in shape, stay in shape, and lead a healthy lifestyle. Online fitness tools like offer a wide array of health, fitness, and nutrition-related information, including step-by-step instruction on hundreds of exercises, video demonstration of workouts, and blogs posted by fitness professionals.

    April 21, 2010 at 12:46 pm |
  40. Michael in Phoenix

    Your children spend a third of their day at school.

    The people in this country would rather pay more to see a sporting event then accept a tax hike to pay the teachers more or give the school more funds.

    So in turn the teachers care little for their students and the schools serve crap.

    Perhaps people need to rethink the priorities. One day these kids will be in charge and they will be cutting your medicare.

    April 21, 2010 at 2:07 pm |
  41. J

    Yea, Harry it sounds like you left your comment underneath the wrong article.

    This sounds so awful. I'm still in my early twenty's but I can remember my elementary school lunches like it was yesterday. Cheesy spaghetti, icecream bars, fish sticks, McDonald's cheeseburgers... you name it, we had it. (well except for the healthy stuff anyway)

    Point is, I was blessed to have a raging metabolism and eat whatever I want without gaining weight. But I have come to understand that while it does not show on the outside, your body will still disagree with the junk that you feed it and find a way to cause you problems whether it be high cholesterol, diabetes, etc.

    And Alicia, who left the first comment- I hope you meant mustard over mayo 🙂

    April 21, 2010 at 4:06 pm |
  42. John Tyler Erie, Pa

    I've been out of school for over 40 years and don't really remember a bad meal. The women in the cafeteria prepared real meals not processed foods and white milk was the only beverage available. It's time to get away from the processed foods and also promote physical activity. Americans better open their eyes because we're killing our children because parents are too busy working to make ends meet and some parents are trying to out due the Jones'. We have a fast lifestyle and we're sacrificing our children with fast foods.
    Maybe Jamie Oliver has the right idea.

    April 22, 2010 at 8:13 am |
  43. Ingrid

    As a West Point grad and now mom of 4, I am always concerned about protecting our nations future...worst school lunch... "greezy" mac'n cheese with ground "beef." It's not just the epidemic of obesity that diminishes the pool of potential soldiers. I have a daughter with severe autism and with 1 out of 130 kids being diagnosed annually this epidemic is just as much a threat to our national security as obesity. Who will our soldiers be? Who will our leaders be (at all levels of governmennt)? I have confidence in our American spirit and know that we will continue to "adapt and overcome," but I am concerned about the "slim pickins" amongst our youth that is becoming more and more prevalent.

    April 22, 2010 at 9:58 am |
  44. Samantha

    Stop letting your kids eat huge amounts of junk food a day. Do you want them to become obese and have a whole mess of helth problems and die before you do? Kids should not be sitting in fornt of the t.v. for hours. Get them into sports and be active. It is not hard to be healthy. PARENTS, STOP BUYING THE JUNK FOOD!

    April 22, 2010 at 2:23 pm |
  45. maze1gerald

    I would'n put it all on the schools,From what I've seen kids nowadays stay in the house most of the time.and to my bewilderment a lot of mothers let their kids eat whatever they want and as much as they want.I know one girl that was about 13 that would eat about 6 or 7eggs scrambled and about 3or4 sausage patties with the eggs. her mother let eat what she wanted.before long she got sick went to the docter and was found to have a very high cholestrol level her mother then stopped her from eating like that.I think a lot of parents let their kids eat or do what they want as long as they stay out their hair.I have noticed a lot of overweight kids lately.I've seen a lot of peoples kids put more on their plate than I would.somthing I don't approve of.

    April 22, 2010 at 11:54 pm |
  46. Smith in Oregon

    Wouldn't it be wonderful if the Republican war makers created yet another proxy war 'somewhere' in the world and no American's participated.

    I imagine the Republican lawmakers and their defense contractor masters have already made contingency plans to conscript 3rd. world youngsters to fight in America's future proxy wars under the guise of 'gaining their American citizenship'. Cheap foreign labor, for the Republican lawmakers that would be a marriage made in heaven.

    April 23, 2010 at 2:56 am |
  47. Gail

    As a former teacher, I would like to get involved. Whoops..............If we do not start from the beginning...........there simply isn't a place to start?

    Dr. Seuss says it all!!!

    Who is to blame????????? hum that's the curious question??

    Perhaps #1 Mom and Dad-We need them to always protect the children....values.........based on government (wow in question)?? No worries the strong will survive!!

    #2 Teachers-Should be paid based on "Merit" not tenure. many things are based on money.......who is the most important......and the most under-paid????????

    Isn't that interesting?????????

    Just a simplistic thought????????????..........

    April 24, 2010 at 8:39 am |
  48. L. Spears

    The problem is that the charts are wrong. A male that is 6'6" tall will look sickly at 164 lbs and 238 lbs they are still thin. These charts were created with the same wrong information that told everyone to use 4, 4, 3, and 2 to plan their nutrition. The military BFI formula is crude and and does not take all factors into consideration. If you start a conversation with them they immediately go to the extreme obese to make their point as opposed to talking about proper, healthy limits.

    The military does not want to talk about the facts.

    April 24, 2010 at 9:30 am |
  49. jimmy

    It Really is a shame that with all the school taxes that we pay, the schools are poisoning our children with the garbage they call school lunch. Good nutrition is vital in the growth and mental health of our children and it is a plain discrace that our school systems continue to get away with it. That being said, a Future WAR is not a reason to be healthy, and I would hope we could just push some computer buttons in the future, after all thats all our kids are doing now with computers and the texting every five seconds.

    April 24, 2010 at 1:34 pm |
  50. TonyInLargo

    We should activate the military draft. Six months in basic training with will make them fit.

    April 24, 2010 at 6:34 pm |