WASHINGTON — A coalition of more than 40 retailers, non-governmental organizations, and food and beverage manufacturers are launching the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, which is designed to help reduce obesity, especially in children, by 2015.

"The stakeholders involved in this commitment recognize that by working together we can make a real difference on the obesity issue in our country," said David Mackay, president and chief executive officer of Kellogg Co. and chairman of the board of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation. "We are united in an unprecedented, collaborative and focused effort to help children and adults achieve better energy balance between calories in and calories out."

The effort will focus on the marketplace, the workplace and schools as ways to encourage people achieve a healthy weight through energy balance. Members of the foundation have committed $20 million to the initiative.

In the marketplace, participating companies are working to make it easier for consumers to manage their calories and enhance overall nutrition quality through product reformulation and innovation, smaller portions, redesigning packaging and labeling, and providing education materials. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will oversee an independent evaluation of the marketplace initiative, and the evaluation will be reported to the public.

In the workplace, companies will implement or expand programs to help employees achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Specific efforts include providing calorie information and healthier food and beverage options in cafeterias, vending machines and break rooms, providing access to exercise at work through individual and group activities, and providing discounts for gym memberships. The workplace efforts will be reviewed by the National Business Group on Health.

The initiative also will expand on the Healthy Schools Partnership to additional schools in Kansas City; Des Moines, Iowa; Washington; and Chicago. The Healthy Schools Partnership combines nutrition education and physical education through curriculum to help children develop healthy habits. The partnership was developed by the American Council for Fitness and Nutrition Foundation, PE4life and the American Dietetic Association Foundation. It also is being evaluated by the University of California at Berkeley Center for Weight and Health.

"The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation has the potential to make a difference by reducing the number of excess calories children consume," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and c.e.o. of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "H.W.C.F. members are uniquely positioned to create healthier options that are appealing to children and affordable to families. The Robert Food Johnson Foundation is pleased to serve as independent evaluator of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation’s marketplace initiative so we can measure the impact of the actions these companies are pledging to take."

Other foundation participants include PepsiCo, Inc.; McCormick & Co.; Nestle USA; Campbell Soup Co.; ConAgra Foods, Inc.; General Mills, Inc.; Hy-Vee; Kraft Foods Inc.; Mars; Sara Lee Corp.; The Coca-Cola Co.; The Hershey Co.; The J.M. Smucker Co. and Unilever.