The statistics are grim: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 18.5% of Americans ages 19 or younger can be classified as obese. And an obese child is much more likely to become an obese adult with a much greater risk for a range of chronic health woes.

Since the younger generation may eat up to two meals per day (and get a high percentage of their daily physical activity) at school, places of learning can play a major role in this obesity crisis. Recent programs, such as the National School Lunch Program, are focused on promoting healthier school environments, and we now have more evidence they can help slim down our kids.

An exploration of the topic published in Preventive Medicine Reports found that students attending elementary and secondary schools that provide healthier food offerings and more opportunities for physical activity have a healthier body mass index as a whole. Over a school year, the study examined the healthfulness of items offered in school lunches, vending machines and other school food services, as well as the number of indoor and outdoor physical activity facilities and exercise opportunities, at 90 public schools. Places of learning that offered vending machines with unhealthy items such as sugary drinks and chocolate bars were associated with higher student weight.

What additional government policies or school initiatives would you like to see implemented to combat child obesity? Are you concerned that federal government policies aimed at rolling back certain nutrition standards at schools will affect the health of children? What else can be done to help younger people eat better and exercise more?

Send your answers to Sandy Todd Webster at [email protected]