(Photo Credit: National Geographic, photographer David McLain)
Blue Zones Project Author Dan Buettner tours Cedar Falls and hosts Good Food Network Workshop Cedar Falls became a Certified Blue Zones Community in 2014 after a rigorous process lasting more than two years. The Advisory Committee meets regularly to talk about opportunities to continue promoting Blue Zones initiatives.
Healthy Living and Quality of Life are key components to Cedar Falls attracting and keeping great citizens. A healthy community provides opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to engage in routine daily physical activity in a safe environment, and is supported by food environments that ensure access to healthy foods. Cities, counties, and school districts play key roles in the creation and support of healthy communities. Promoting Cedar Falls as a Blue Zones Community offers our community an economic advantage.
Gallup polls show Iowans eat less fresh fruit and vegetables than those living in almost every other state. A group of local government, education, business, and nonprofit agency representatives calling themselves the “Cedar Valley Good Food Network” is working to change that locally. The group received a boost last month when the Cedar Valley Blue Zones Project brought in author, Dan Buettner, for a strategic planning session, focusing on policies and programs that would make fresh produce more accessible and affordable, while making it harder and more expensive to eat unhealthy food.
Buettner also rented bikes from local supporter of Blue Zones Project, Bike Tech, to tour the Cedar Valley to look at previous Blue Zones efforts focused largely on making the community more walkable and bikable; getting people “out from behind steering wheels and on their feet.” “I’m here with a National Geographic photographer to capture the successes, and there have been many of them,” he said.
Sue Beach, who previously led the local Blue Zones effort, remains active with Cedar Valley Blue Zones Project and the new Good Food Network that is pulling together producers and organizations with an interest in locally grown produce. “We have all these great organizations out in the community doing wonderful work, but they were not all connected,” Beach said. “The Blue Zones project has been a platform that allowed all of the organizations to come together.”
The Iowa Northland Regional Council of Governments (INRCOG) has taken the lead to organize the Good Food Network. “It has been a loose-knit group of people who’ve been meeting but we are ready to become a little more formal,” said INRCOG’s Brian Schoon. Goals include working more closely with farmers markets and continuing to encourage schools to work towards Blue Zones Designation, and encouraging hospitals, worksites, and other institutions to have more local produce options. The group plans to explore perks for grocery stores to sell healthier foods; school wellness programs; fostering relationships between food pantries and growers; community-supported agriculture where employers work with producers to get food for their employees; food waste reduction; and exploring an opportunity for patrons to have a discount when purchasing healthy foods at Blue Zones Restaurants.
Watch for the Worksite Lunch & Learn at Western Home in late October about Blue Zones Worksites best practices. Worksite leaders are invited to attend. A healthier workforce is more productive and helps control health care costs.
For additional information contact CedarValleyBlueZonesProject@gmail.com. Like “Cedar Valley Blue Zones Project” on Facebook for continuous community updates.