Three thousand overweight schoolchildren will be helped to shed their kilograms in a government drive to tackle childhood obesity. The Acting Assistant Director of Health, Dr Au Tak-kwong, said the number of overweight children was increasing, with 13.6 per cent of primary and secondary students - 60,000 children - found to be overweight last year. The figure was up by 0.9 percentage points on 1998-99. The Fitness Programme for Overweight Children, jointly run by the Department of Health and the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, puts children on a programme of exercise and nutritional education. The programme, in which students attend two fitness classes a week for six weeks, costs $40 and runs until next March. The scheme helped 2,500 children aged eight to 12 last year. Lo Shun-min, nine, who is on the fitness programme, said he was sticking to a 'light and healthy diet'. 'I only have three regular meals a day, with a lot of vegetables and only a bowl of noodles or rice for lunch or dinner. I do not eat junk food at all,' he said. 'I feel I am very fit already. No one calls me fei chai [fat boy], all my friends call me Min-min instead.' In the exercise room, children follow their coaches through a series of exercises to music, including aerobics and Hula Hoop. Children are also told to stay on a healthy and balanced diet. Dr Au said about 20 per cent of kindergartens had already replaced junk food and soft drinks with fruit, skimmed milk and water on their menus. Parents interested in signing up their children should telephone 2414 5555 or visit the Web page www.lcsd.gov.hk .