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Imperial Valley Aims To Shed 100,000 Pounds

Imperial Valley Aims To Shed 100,000 Pounds

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Imperial Valley is embarking on a major challenge — to become one of the healthiest communities in California and the nation.

The Imperial Valley Press launched a campaign this year, called the "Valley Challenge," to get its readers and all residents of Imperial County to eat healthy, get more exercise and lose 100,000 pounds collectively to fight the problem of obesity.

"While our stated goal is to lose 100,000 pounds in 90 days, our real objective is to make people think, make healthy choices, realize that they are in control of their health, and can and often do influence the people around them. We are hoping to effect a lifestyle change," said Imperial Valley Press publisher Gerald Delaney.

According to the Imperial County Public Health Department, nearly 80 percent of adults in the county are obese or overweight, the second highest rate in the state. Meanwhile, 40 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 20 are obese or overweight, and 30 percent of children between ages 2 and 5 are obese.

Imperial County Public Health Department community health deputy director Janette Angulo said poverty is a contributing factor to the county's obesity rates. The county consistently has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state. In December, it was 21 percent.

"Studies have shown those in poverty are at greater risk," Angulo said.

Delaney said the newspaper decided to launch the effort because it "has a responsibility to the community."

Participants are encouraged to register on the Valley Challenge website. Since Jan. 1, 464 people have signed up and report losing nearly 1,000 pounds collectively.

Delaney said he believes many more people are participating but are hesitant to report their weight and measurements on the website.

The website aims to bring together resources encouraging healthy eating and physical activity in the Imperial Valley.

Fidel Gonzalez, president and CEO at First Imperial Credit Union, is a participant in the Valley Challenge and is encouraging employees of the the credit union to participate.

For every pound employees of the credit union lose, the company is donating $2 to the Imperial Valley Food Bank. The food bank was selected, Gonzalez said, because of a program it has that provides healthy food to low-income children. He said this has served to get the employees excited to participate.

The 22 employees participating lost 142 pounds through January, Gonzalez said.

"I think its important for us to change our mind-set about being more healthy," Gonzalez said.

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