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Hy-Vee Communities to Become Blue Zones

DES MOINES, Iowa — Four Hy-Vee communities have been chosen as the first Blue Zones Project demonstration sites under the Healthiest State Initiative. They are Cedar Falls, Mason City, Spencer and Waterloo, Iowa.

“I’m absolutely excited,” Helen Eddy, vice president of health and wellness for Hy-Vee Food Stores and executive director of the Healthiest State Initiative told SN.

The privately led, publicly endorsed Healthiest State campaign encourages individuals, businesses and communities to work together to improve Iowans’ overall health and well-being as measured by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. The goal is for Iowa — currently No. 16 — to become the healthiest state in the nation by 2016.

A centerpiece of the initiative is the Blue Zones Project, a well-being movement based on the findings of author and research Dan Beuttner who’s studied the places in the world where inhabitants live the longest, healthiest lives.

The project will apply Blue Zones principles with the assistance of national experts to add things like nutritious menus to restaurants, bike lanes to main thoroughfares and volunteer opportunities to add purpose to residents’ lives.

Dietitians from Hy-Vee may contribute their expertise by teaching residents how to turn their kitchens into Blue Zones by portioning snacks into small plastic bags and removing televisions from eating environments, Eddy explained.

“Our store directors and dietitians have been very actively engaged in the application process in these four communities and we expect that they will continue to be engaged and serve as a community catalyst for a number of the inventions the communities choose to take,” she said.

Eighty-four towns and cities across Iowa submitted statements of interest to become Blue Zone communities. Six more will be selected and a total of 10 transformed as part of a collaboration of Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa who will underwrite the effort with $25 million over five years, and Healthways, a well-being improvement organization focused on physical, social and emotional health.

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