Kids say some pretty funny things. But when a class of eight-year-old children can’t identify a potato, we’re not laughing.

We’re fighting the battle against childhood obesity in the classroom, in the school cafeteria and on school playgrounds. School is where we need to be giving our kids the tools to feed themselves and their families properly in the future.

Better food at school

First up, kids eat at school 180 days of the year, many from the ages of four to 18, so there’s no way they should be serving junk. Amazing things have been achieved over the last 13 years. We need to keep supporting, promoting and inspiring school cooks, faculty and teachers, and make funds available to feed our kids properly.

We need to make sure the environment around schools isn’t deliberately encouraging kids to eat badly.

Secondly, food education and physical activity absolutely need to work together. This generation can’t afford to repeat our mistakes – we need to get them moving during the school day, and teach them the skills to cook healthy food. Beautifully simple ideas, like a ‘Daily Mile’ as part of the school day, really work. It’s simple and delivers fast — both in terms of burning calories and increasing attainment and brain function. Compulsory daily activity in the school day is a win-win when around one in three kids are overweight or obese.

Encouring healthy habits

And lastly, we can’t stop at the school gate. We need to make sure the environment around schools isn’t deliberately encouraging kids to eat badly. That means restricting junk food ads on billboards and public transportation near schools, and stopping fast food joints from setting up shop outside schools.

This is crunch time – 41 million children under five are overweight across the world, and if we don’t start making changes, the next generation will be facing crippling healthcare costs and lost productivity due to diet-related disease. But change is within our reach. There are some incredible initiatives out there, and many inspiring Americans are leading the way in the fight against childhood obesity.