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Veterans Push for Bill to Get School Kids Walking and Biking

PHOTO: A group of retired military leaders has come out in support of Minnesota's Safe Routes to School bill, saying it's a matter of national security to improve the health of children, who are the country's future soldiers. Photo credit: Joe Goldberg/Flickr
PHOTO: A group of retired military leaders has come out in support of Minnesota's Safe Routes to School bill, saying it's a matter of national security to improve the health of children, who are the country's future soldiers. Photo credit: Joe Goldberg/Flickr
May 12, 2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. - The 2014 legislature is quickly coming to a close, and one of the last big tasks is the passage of a bonding bill. It includes a measure that is finding an ally among the armed forces.

Retired Brig. Gen. Denny Shulstad, Edina, is a member of "Mission: Readiness," a group of hundreds of retired generals, admirals and senior military leaders calling for policies to help young people be healthy and successful. He says that includes the Minnesota Safe Routes to School bill.

"Today only 13 percent of the young people either ride their bike or walk to school. We would very much like to see that number increase because that is a very easy way to encourage kids to get outside, to walk, to run, to ride their bicycles," Shulstad says. "And to do that, you need to have safe routes."

The safe-routes proposal would provide monies for school districts and cities to work on sidewalks, street crossings, bike paths and the like. The Minnesota House has proposed $1 million in funding for the program, while the Senate and Governor Mark Dayton are seeking $2 million.

Schulstad says the growing number of young people who are overweight is of great concern to the military because not meeting fitness requirements is why many potential recruits are turned away.

"So many of the young people are obese," Shulstad says. "They just don't have the physical conditioning to even join the military. It's very important for our national defense."

Currently, it is estimated that more than one in four Minnesota adolescents ages 10 to 17 are overweight or obese.

The adjournment deadline for the state legislature is May 19.

More information is available at www.missionreadiness.org. The text of the Safe Routes legislation, SF 687, is at www.revisor.mn.gov.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN