National News

Jan 18, 2012 2:36 PM by NBC News, (CC)

Former President Clinton launches initiative to reduce childhood obesity by 2015

Former President Bill Clinton is working with thousands of - mostly urban - schools across the country to provide healthier food choices and keep kids physically active.

The program now impacts the lives more than of 9 million students across the country.

With nearly 25 million children in this nation overweight or obese, a war is being waged on the front lines and students are ultimately choosing healthier foods and opting for exercise because they are getting support at school.

"This is what this is what a kitchen looks like at school. There are not fryers. And now we've increased our vegetable consumption by about 30% over what we had in the beginning," said Sal Valenza, the food service director at PS2 Elementary in West New York, New Jersey.

The driving force behind this?

Former President Clinton whose own emergency heart surgery several years ago forced him to change stubborn habits.

A realization he hopes will motivate others, especially the young.

"It's part of education because children need enough food, the right kind of food to grow and to engulf both their bodies and their brains. When I had all these heart problems, I realized that all this was totally unexamined," said President Clinton.

A multi-faceted approach combining healthy food and exercise is the key to Clinton's initiative.

Students also take part in activities ranging from scheduled class breaks to an indoor fitness trail, even teachers get moving, attending physical fitness boot camps.

The integrated philosophy is catching on.

"This is in the D-N-A of the school district now," said Clinton.

As part of this Alliance for a Healthier Generation, the William J. Clinton Foundation has partnered with the American Heart Association to reduce childhood obesity nationwide by 2015 and get kids moving and eating better.