Lacey Peterson
The Union Democrat

Pounds shed by Black Oak Casino staff in a weight-loss challenge modeled after the TV show "The Biggest Loser" translated to a pallet of food and $1,000 for the ATCAA Food Bank in Jamestown.

Casino staff on Monday presented a check and a forklift full of food to Food Bank staff and recognized winners of the "Winning with Wellness 2011 Weight Loss Challenge."

"Thank you so much. It's greatly appreciated," said Conner Gerhart, ATCAA Food Bank events coordinator. "You're helping 10,000 individuals."

The food bank distributes more than 1 million pounds of food each year.

Ron Patel, the casino's general manager, congratulated

participating staff members Monday on their hard work and said that 20

people lost five to 10 pounds each, 11 lost 10 to 15 pounds, five

people lost 15 to 20 pounds and three people lost more than 20 pounds.

"That is quite a lot. I don't think I was in any of those categories," Patel joked with staff.

A total of 544 pounds were lost in the three-month competition, which ended May 27.

"The first weeks were the best. Then Easter hit and people started eating Easter goodies," Patel said.

Julie Barrington, casino benefit coordinator, said the casino had pledged to match weight loss $1 a pound up to $1,000.

Two-thirds of the way into it, employees had lost 613 pounds. After Easter weigh in, the pounds lost were down to 350.

The casino had already committed the donation, so the total is closer to $2 a pound, Barrington said.

There were four teams made up of 50 people who made the final

weigh-in. The idea stemmed from the casino wellness committee, and was

modeled after "The Biggest Loser," which also donates to food banks,

Barrington said.

"We wanted it to be something we know is going to benefit our community," Barrington said.

"The wellness committee took a tour of the food bank. We were so

amazed and impressed with how much they do with so little. They do so

much for the community.

The theme of the fundraiser contest was, "Our loss is the food bank's gain," Barrington said.

Food Bank Director Lee Kimball said demand for emergency supplemental food baskets are at record highs.

"One in 10 people rely on some portion of their food coming from

the safety net," Kimball said of Tuolumne County residents who receive

food baskets.

"It's twice that for kids," she said. "We're still in pretty dire times."

"The casino does a lot to support the community," Kimball said,

saying she found their contest very innovative. "We need to be creative

like this."

"It's a win all the way around," she said.

To find out more about the ATCAA Food Bank Got Food program, where

groups collect or sponsor a pallet of food, call 984-3960.