WASHINGTON, DC -- The childhood obesity epidemic is posing a threat to national security, according to a new report from Mission: Readiness, a group comprised of retired military leaders.

Members of the group met with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack yesterday to show support for new legislation related to improving children’s nutrition and increasing funding for the national school lunch program.

“Our national security in the year 2030 is absolutely dependent on reversing the alarming rates of child obesity,” Rear Admiral James A. Barnett, Jr., U.S. Navy (Ret.), said in a statement. “When over a quarter of young adults are too fat to fight, we need to take notice. We urge Congress to take action on child nutrition this year.”

More than 9 million young adults aged 17 to 24 are too overweight to join the military, a new Mission: Readiness report, titled “Too Fat to Fight,” finds. And during the past decade, the number of states with 40 percent or more of young adults considered overweight rose from one state to 39 states. The report analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The group also noted that up to 40 percent of children’s daily calorie intake happens at school. Some 80 percent of children who were overweight between the ages of 10 to 15 are considered obese by age 25. They said improving school nutrition could be a crucial area for reducing or preventing childhood obesity.