An ice cream truck gives out soft serve and Takis to students outside Highland High School in Palmdale. Photo by Mariana Dale with LAist.

By Jackie Fortiér/LAist

Originally Published June 20

A new report finds childhood obesity is on the rise in California. The Golden State ranks in the lower third of states for childhood obesity, according to the annual Kids Count Report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

“We’re amongst the worst states, we rank 38th in the nation [among the 50 states],” said Kelly Hardy, health and research director for the non-profit Children Now. The organization helped compile the report.

Statewide, the percentage of 10 to 17-year-olds who are overweight or obese jumped from 31% in 2018-19 to 35% in 2020-21.

It’s higher in Los Angeles County, where 37% of children aged 10 to 17 are overweight or obese. Hardy cites a lack of access to safe areas to play and nutritional food.

“Obesity rates have been climbing for years, this isn’t just a pandemic problem,” she said.

Red alert for communities of color

Latino children and teens have the highest overweight and obesity rates of any ethnic group. Almost half of 10 to 17-year-old Latinos in L.A. County are overweight or obese, according to the California Health Interview Survey, one of the sources in the report.

Among Black and Asian children in the same age group, 32% were overweight or obese, followed by 22% of children who are two or more races. White children in L.A. County had the lowest obesity rate, almost 14%.

“Overweight and obesity is especially a problem amongst our communities of color and low-income areas because of less access to safe places to play and to walk to school or play sports. A lack of access to fresh produce and grocery stores nearby. It’s something that we really need to tackle as a state and on a societal level,” Hardy said.

Children who struggle with their weight risk health problems, including diabetes, asthma, heart disease and cancer.


  • Teach kids how to eat healthy – Help your children get the nutrients they need by making half their plate fruits and vegetables. Help kids rethink their drink by replacing sugary drinks, such as soda, fruit drinks, and flavored milk, with water, 100% juice, or plain low-fat milk.
  • Move more, together – Children aged 3–5 years should be physically active throughout the day. Children aged 6–17 years need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Walk the dog, go for a hike, or ride bikes as a family.
  • Set consistent sleep routines – Good sleep helps prevent type 2 diabetes, obesity, injuries, and problems with attention and behavior. Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule, including on weekends, can help children sleep better.
  • Replace screen time with family time – Too much screen time can lead to poor sleep, weight gain, lower grades in school, and poor mental health. Reducing screen time can free up time for family activities and can remove cues to eat unhealthy food.

Find more information from the CDC here.

This report is reprinted with permission from Southern California Public Radio. © 2023 Southern California Public Radio. All rights reserved.

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