APEX, N.C. — Childhood obesity in North Carolina is at epidemic levels and keeps getting worse. It is a health threat to millions of children and costs more than $12 billion a year.
In North Carolina, one in four children are overweight or at risk of becoming overweight. That is two to three times higher than the national average.
When broken down by county, the numbers are weighty.
"We're probably talking, you know, probably 10,000 children [in Cumberland County]. That's a lot," said Susan Herring, executive director of child nutrition for Cumberland County Schools.
To help fight the obesity epidemic, the state,
NC Prevention Partners
are teaming up for the Healthy Weight, Healthy Schools Initiative.
The goal is to provide schools with educational tool kits to combat obesity at every angle.
"That's what has never been done, is put it together from the top to bottom -- school efforts, teacher involvement and parents as well," said Dr. Meg Malloy, NC Prevention Partners executive director.
Tool kits will include information on healthy food choices and learning activities. The plan also calls for at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day.
"It takes a whole school to create a healthy child," said Howard Lee, state Board of Education chairman.
Organizers hope the team approach will help this program succeed where others have failed.
"The biggest issue we've all learned is that no one group can take this issue on by themselves," Malloy said.
So maybe with a lot of team work and a bit of luck, the class of 2016 will graduate with smart minds and healthy bodies.
There are pilot programs in Cumberland, Warren and Mecklenburg counties. Organizers hope to eventually reach every elementary, middle and high school in the state.