Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BCNEPA) and the Pennsylvania Department of Health are helping local elementary schools fight childhood obesity through physical activities in the coming school year.

According to state data, nearly one in three Pennsylvania students in grades K-6 are either overweight or obese. The Active Schools Grant Program targets the issue by offering grants of up to $15,000 to help schools create new wellness initiatives and purchase fitness equipment, supporting an increase in students' daily physical activity.

Earlier this summer, elementary schools statewide were encouraged to apply for $5,000 through the Department of Health, with local schools also eligible for a matching grant of $10,000 from BCNEPA. Eight schools within BCNEPA's 13-county service area have been selected to receive funding. More than 3,500 K-6 students will benefit from the program.

Schools receiving grants in the TIMES NEWS coverage area are:

Ÿ Weatherly Area Elementary School, Weatherly Area School District, Carbon County

Ÿ Pleasant Valley Elementary School, Pleasant Valley School District, Monroe County

"We are so pleased to continue as the regional sponsor of the Active Schools program, and we congratulate the local schools receiving grants this year," said Denise S. Cesare, president and CEO of BCNEPA. "An important part of our mission at BCNEPA is to improve the health of our community. Active Schools, in addition to our support of health and nutrition education and early learning and screening programs, will help local children start down the path to a healthy future"

"Given the success of the Active Schools Program in middle schools, we wanted to now give elementary schools an opportunity to put evidence-based programs in place that get kids active for at least 30 minutes every day," said state Secretary of Health Everette James. "Physical activity is important not only to reduce childhood obesity, but for all children to develop strong bones, a healthy heart and sharp minds."