(Oct. 28) WOODLAND HILLS, Calif. — Nutritionists in and out of the fresh produce industry agree that when it comes to preventing obesity, the sooner you get to people, the better.

A private California foundation has taken that advice to heart, announcing Oct. 14 it is committing $26 million to fight childhood obesity in the Golden State.

The California Endowment will work with community-based organizations, school districts and local public health departments to achieve two related goals: getting kids to exercise more and to eat better.

The four-year program, “Healthy Living, Active Communities,” is aimed particularly at children in low-income and rural communities.

The endowment also will use funds to lobby for state and national government policy changes that will reduce the risk factors for diabetes and obesity.

Diet-related initiatives of the program will include improving access to nutritious food choices in schools and, through working with grocery stores and farmers markets, in neighborhoods.

School districts participating in the program will be encouraged to adopt nutrition standards that promote healthy food choices. Efforts also will be made to limit children’s exposure to neighborhood-level marketing of unhealthful foods.

The California Endowment was founded in 1996 to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities. It has regional offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Fresno and San Diego. It has awarded more than 5,000 grants to 2,500 nonprofit organizations totaling about $1.2 billion.