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National weight loss challenge to help local food bank By IVY FA by Supervita 

MUNCIE -- Contestants of the NBC reality show The Biggest Loser weren't the only ones getting a weight-loss challenge Tuesday night.

Viewers that night learned about the show's collaboration with General Mills and national food banks to sponsor a weight loss and fundraising effort to address the nation's issues with hunger and obesity.

The "Pound for Pound" challenge encourages Americans to pledge to lose weight over the course of the next four months. General Mills will donate 10 cents for every pound lost to Feeding America, an agency that coordinates many of the nation's 200 food banks.

Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana receives assistance from Feeding America, formerly known as America's Second Harvest, and looks to gain from the weight loss challenge as well.

"It's kind of exciting when you think of the tens of thousands of people that will be pledging weight loss, which is good for America and really good for people in need," said Lois Rockhill, executive director of the local Second Harvest Food Bank. "The timing is really good so I think it will work out well."

During each episode of this season's The Biggest Loser, viewers will be encouraged to join the challenge and also hear more about the nation's hunger issues, something Feeding America hopes will resonate with audiences.

"Through Feeding America and food stamps and other programs, we're able to help a lot of people, but it's a continuing struggle," said Ross Fraser from Feeding America. "It's very tough for people, for the working poor."

People interested in participating in the challenge can sign up online, putting in their current weight and their zip codes. At the end of the challenge, on May 5, the sponsors will calculate the total amount of weight lost during the time period based on participant responses.

Feeding America will distribute the donated funds to food banks based on the number of people in their service area who participate in the challenge. In other words, the more people that enroll in the challenge from Second Harvest of East Central Indiana's eight-county service area, the more funds the local food bank will receive.

Cindy Vaughn, the wellness coordinator for Delaware Community Schools, will be participating in the challenge and hopes to have others district staff participate as well.

Her school district was already planning to a weight-loss competition on its own, but she believes combining their program with the Pound for Pound challenge is a great way to benefit the community.

"We just thought, 'Wouldn't it be great to do a community service and do the Pound for Pound challenge?'" Vaughn said. "We know that by us doing the challenge, indirectly our families are going to benefit."

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This article was published on Friday 09 January, 2009.
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