On Tuesday, September 8th, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack was invited to discuss the nation’s child nutrition strategy at the National Press Club. The president of the American Academy of Pediatrics – Dr. Sandra Hassink – and Jessica Donze Black (the director for the Pew Trusts‘ Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project) also participated in the discussion. The event was webcast; access it here. The online community was invited to take part by following @USDA and using the hashtags #HealthierNextGen and #nutrition4kids. It was an incredibly interesting exchange of ideas and I hope you go on Twitter to follow the discussion and to add your thoughts. Participants were mostly what I would term strong supporters and advocates.

The USDA and other organizations – and individuals – seeded the hashtag with helpful statistics and links about the success of the nutrition standards. Clearly, some of what was shared represents talking points in support of the program as it comes under political pressure.

The USDA tweeted this:

And this:


I found the following two Tweets incredibly interesting, for reasons I’ll explain in a minute:


Mission: Readiness – which Tweeted the first national security reference above – is a non-partisan advocacy organization composed of former military leaders. The organization has conducted studies that show that a primary reason young people fail in their quest to join the armed forces is because of obesity. The organization views childhood nutrition as an issue paramount to national security. I agree.

Secretary Vilsack is not the first to link national security with human health, in particular, childhood nutrition and health. That came earlier. In 1946, President Harry Truman signed the National School Lunch Act into law. This created the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). The NSLP provides free and low-cost meals to American school children. It provided – and still does – a means to prop up food prices by absorbing farm surpluses. The NLSP sought not only to further stabilize the food system in the post-war era, but also to improve childhood nutrition. The legislation was driven in part by concern about the high rejection rate of draft-age men during World War II due to poor health. The NLSP was framed “as a measure of national security, to safeguard the health and well-being of the Nation’s children and to encourage the domestic consumption of nutritious agricultural commodities” (Section 2 of the Act).

Each day, then, even as the nation entered a period of unprecedented prosperity (for most) in the post-World War II era, millions of American children were fed American agricultural products through the NLSP. The legislation that mandated that grand enterprise was presented in language that linked access to healthy food and good nutrition with national security.

I’ll close by sharing this Tweet from child nutrition advocate Bettina Elias Siegel, which sums it up for me:



ICYMI, my piece on food system reform as an issue of national security is here. More food for thought!


Have a great afternoon!