WASHINGTON — Leadership for Healthy Communities, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation national program, has awarded nearly $2 million in grants to help communities increase children’s access to affordable healthy food and opportunities for physical activity.

The organizations receiving the grants, which are valued at about $300,000 each, include the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, the National Association of County and City Health Officials, The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, the National Association of State Boards of Education, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the National Congress of American Indians and the National League of Cities Institute.

“Because of their influence in shaping the environments in which children live, learn and play, elected and appointed officials are critical partners in efforts to prevent childhood obesity,” said Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, director of Leadership for Healthy Communities. “These seven organizations have an impressive record of working with policy-makers to successfully implement strategies that support the health of children and their families.”

The organizations concentrate on 15 states in the Southern region, where obesity rates are among the nations highest. Some strategies to be used include altering local land-use and open-space policies so children and teens have better access to parks and recreation, creating and implementing strong local school wellness policies to ensure children have access to healthy foods, including physical education as a core requirement in curriculums and more.