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Brownback sets weight-loss challenge; not a fan of new school lunch standards

Gov. Sam Brownback today kicked off a statewide weight-loss challenge aimed at instilling healthy habits, but he criticized new federal school lunch standards that provide healthier meals.

Gov. Sam Brownback and KDHE Secretary Robert Moser on Tuesday talk about the Governor's Weight Loss Challenge during a news conference.

Gov. Sam Brownback and KDHE Secretary Robert Moser on Tuesday talk about the Governor's Weight Loss Challenge during a news conference. by Scott Rothschild

Brownback wants Kansans to organize into five-person teams to see which team can lose the largest percentage of weight.

Brownback intends to pick four members of his Cabinet to his squad.

"My hope is that the Governor's Weight Loss Challenge will encourage everyone to work together to make our state healthier," Brownback said at a news conference.

Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Robert Moser, a physician, and also the State Health Officer, said the obesity rate has doubled among Kansas adults from 15 percent to 30.1 percent between 1995 and 2010.

"Together, poor nutrition and physical inactivity is now considered the No. 2 preventable cause of death, behind tobacco use," Moser said.

Obesity is associated with congestive heart failure, diabetes and cancer, he said.

The governor's challenge will award monetary prizes — the amounts have not yet been determined — to teams comprised of state employees. Brownback also urged non-state employees to take up the challenge.

A web-based tool will be used to track the progress of each state employee team that joins the competition. Teams can start registering on Dec. 17 at www.weightloss.ks.gov.

On the issue of school lunches, Brownback said the goal of the lunch standards was "laudable," but added, "It's a typical federal issue. It just doesn't fit all circumstances."

He said he has heard complaints from people that their children participate in school athletics and aren't getting enough calories with the lunches.

The standards, championed by First Lady Michelle Obama, are designed to "raise a healthier generation of children," according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

According to the USDA, the changes that took effect this school year ensure students are offered both fruits and vegetables each school day; increase whole grain foods; offer only fat-free or low-fat milk; limit calories based on the age of children being served; and increase focus on reducing saturated fats, trans fats and sodium.

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