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January 31, 2014

Weight loss, food drive takes off

Wellness campaign benefits school Backpack Program

TERRE HAUTE — A program to encourage healthy weight loss and collect pounds of food for hungry school children has been launched through the YMCA of Vigo County.

“Lose A Ton – Give A Ton” asks people to donate one pound of food for every pound lost from now through March 28.

The food – peanut butter, Vienna sausage, applesauce and fruitcups – will be given to the Vigo County School Corp. Backpack Program, which sends needy kids home on Fridays with a weekend’s worth of food.

Ryan Daffer, community wellness coordinator at the YMCA, said the program helps create a healthier community, while helping children who face hunger at home without their daily meals at school.

“It’s really neat to see people want to work out to lose weight and to help the backpack program,” agreed YMCA branch director Eleanor Ramseier. “This year, we have more individuals, more business and the school corporation involved.”

The inaugural Lose A Ton – Give A Ton resulted in 2,100 pounds of food donated to help fill the backpacks. The goal again this year is for the community to lose at least 2,000 pounds during the next two months.

While being a member of the YMCA is encouraged, anyone participating can work out anywhere and record their weight loss on an honor system that just asks for a reporting of pounds shed every two weeks. Ramseier said that some businesses may want to issue a company-wide challenge and keep track of their own employee weight loss, but also report that weight loss to the YMCA, pairing it with a matching donation of food for the backpack program.

“This is  made to go along with programs that people are already doing,” Daffer said. “You don’t have to be  member of the Y. We just want to help the children.”

The YMCA, located at Fairbanks Park, is the drop off location for the food raised during the challenge. After the weigh-ins take place and the pounds lost are determined, participants can purchase the food and drop it off at the Y. The YMCA and the United Way of the Wabash Valley will make arrangements to deliver the food to the school district for the backpack program.

Weigh-ins at the YMCA are available from 8 a.m. to noon on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, and from 4 to 8 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays.

The food requested is specific for the backpack program, and participants are asked to follow the guidelines and portion sizes.

• The peanut butter is a standard jar size of 18 ounces, either smooth or crunchy. A jar of peanut butter costs about $1.99 to $3.79 depending upon the brand.

• The applesauce or fruit cups should be 4-ounce servings. They are usually sold as a six-pack, and typically cost $1.49 to $2.99 depending upon the brand.

• The Vienna sausage comes in a 5-ounce can and can be found at any grocery. The cans usually cost between 39 cents and 49 cents per can.

Businesses who sign up for the program will be sent a spreadsheet to fill in with each participant’s name and initial weight. Then each week, an email report with updated statistics can be sent to the Y to be tabulated.

Of the 14 businesses already signed up, Daffer said, eight are new since last year.

Ramseier said it is fun to see the businesses participate in the program because many also do perks for their employees for top losses.

The school corporation has encouraged all of its employees to participate, said Superintendent Danny Tanoos.

“We encourage everyone to lead a healthy lifestyle,” Tanoos said. “This year, the focus is knowing that the weight loss will benefit our school children.”

Marcee Bedford, a payroll clerk with the school corporation, said she currently exercises at a local fitness center with resistance training and cardio equipment, and when the weather is nice, she runs outside.

“It’s benefited me to start this turn-around for a healthier lifestyle,” Bedford said. Having previously worked in schools, she said she has seen the need among the students to have a food-filled backpack for the weekend when school meals are not available.

“This goes to a good cause,” she said of Lose A Ton – Give a Ton. “It’s like running in a 5K race and donating your money. This is like donating your time and giving food to kids.”

Ramseier said she hopes many more companies plug into the weight loss program, because it is already established.

“So many businesses would like to do something like this with their employees, but they don’t have the time to organize it because they are busy running their business. So this is something businesses can plug into,” she said.

For those people who want to participate, but who cannot afford to buy the food, monetary donations are also being accepted to match the pounds lost.

“Part of our statement is youth development, and social responsibility, and healthy living. This program covers our meaning for the Y,” Ramseier pointed out. “We really have a mission and a ministry in the community, and this is one way of showing the community what we can do.”

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.

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