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It’s important to change people’s behavior, said David Zvenyach, chief of staff of D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat, who co-authored the Healthy Schools Act of 2009.

“The gap between blacks and whites is the highest in the country,” Mr. Zvenyach said of his city. “If we continue at the same rate, this generation [of youths] would have a shorter life span than the previous generation.”

Part of the obesity problem is the so-called grocery gap — lack of availability of fresh produce and food in areas of major cities such as the District, Mr. Zvenyach said, pointing out that in the city’s poorer 7th and 8th wards, there is just one grocery store for every 35,000 residents, compared with 14 grocery stores per 35,000 residents in Ward 3, the wealthiest ward in the District.

Deborah Simmons contributed to this report.