I have been more than remiss in my devotion to the blog recently, and what better way to renew my role in it than by posting this gem of an article from today’s AP wire saying that more that 1/4 of the United States’s young adults are obese to the point that they are ineligible for military service. Some retired military officers will be on Capitol Hill this week testifying before the Ag Committee to the effect that if we do not improve the nutritional quality of school lunches, it could well rise to the level of a national security threat in coming years.
This might sound off the wall, but those of you who know the state development literature know this isn’t the first time the military has gotten actively involved in school lunch content. In fact, the British social safety net began when the British upper class was shocked by the poor health of army recruits during the Boer War, most of whom were from the urban poor. Improving their health and education was seen as crucial for preserving British military power. The linked article itself describes the similar experience of the U.S. during World War II. If you’re interested in this sort of thing – the connection between military preparedness and the expansion of the welfare state – check out works by political scientists Theda Skocpol, and a book by Karen Rassler and William Thompson.