Dozens of residents in Lynwood, California, accepted the city's challenge Saturday to lose weight and at the same time take home $3,500 and learn what they need to know about diet and exercise.

The municipal government of this city in Los Angeles County is into its seventh "Cash for Chunkers" program, which aims to motivate the community to stay healty, exercise and eat a healthy diet.

"There's great concern among the student population about being overweight and we have to begin with the parents. If they get motivated to lose weight and are conscientious about it, that will help their kids," Mark Flores, director of Lynwood's Recreation and Community Services Department, told EFE.

For 12 weeks, teams of four compete to see which can lose the greatest weight percentage. So every Saturday, contestants have to meet the challenge of the scales.

The program allows participants to attend motivational discussions and classes on nutrition, cooking and exercise.

"It's really good, it helps me a lot. Besides losing weight it's a time to be with my family and share the challenge together," said Eliberto Chavez, 41, who weighs 334 pounds.

His team, Orange Bang, weights a total of 1,188 pounds and knows that this is hard work, since they tried it before and failed.

"We start off very well during the first few weeks but later we start gaining weight - but what's important is to keep trying. This time we're going to succeed," said Ramona Urrea, Chavez's cousin.

According to Flores, more than half of the over 1,200 residents who took part in the past have continued with their routines.

"If they fail, they later return because they know we're going to help them here and we're going to work as a community," he said.

Cecilia Amezquita, one of the participants who came back, said she isn't in the challenge to win first prize, no, she's in it to lose 40 pounds.

The Latina at one time weighed 261 pounds and later dropped to around 100. But then she started putting the weight back on again and now she's seeking the support of her pals and the program to get back to her ideal weight.

According to statistics of the Public Health Department of Los Angeles Country, 37.8 percent of the population is overweight, and 27.7 percent of minors have that same problem in Lynwood, where 87 percent of residents are Hispanic. EFE