Cedar Rapids, Marion, and Iowa City Named Blue Zone Project Demonstration Sites

By Addison Speck, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Cedar Rapids, Marion, and Iowa City are now officially going blue. On Wednesday, Blue Zone Leaders named these three cities along with Muscatine, Oskaloosa, and Sioux City, as Blue Zones Project demonstration sites. There are now a total of 19 Blue Zone communities.

For more than a year, communities across the state have been competing to be demonstration sites. Waterloo, Cedar Falls, Spencer, and Mason City were all selected in the first round. Back in March Cedar Rapids made its pitch to Blue Zone judges, but wasn't picked. But City leaders said they refused to give up.

"Even though we didn't have the designation of a Blue Zone city, we've been trying to implement Blue Zone projects," said Ron Corbett, Mayor of Cedar Rapids. Corbett believes the Blue Zone selection committee saw that the city kept pushing forward and that's why Cedar Rapids was selected in the second round.

The Blue Zone Project is the cornerstone of Iowa's Healthiest State initiative. A Blue Zone is a community committed to living a healthy lifestyle physically, mentally, and socially. "It's not just about your diet and your exercise, but also slowing down, enjoying life, having wine at five, and enjoying the company around you," said Kristy Staker, a member of the Blue Zone Leadership team.

Ultimately, it requires individuals to commit to lifestyles changes. But the perk of being a selected demonstration site, is that experts are provided to help city leaders with education programs and public policy, so that the city can make living healthy easier for its residents. "It's going to make our community healthier. It's going to bring bike trails, sidewalks, and other environmental changes that we really need to make a lifestyle change," said Staker. She referenced places like HyVee, who are already making small changes by moving water to front coolers where junk food and pop used to be.

The city of Cedar Rapids has been working for some time to put more bike trails and bike lanes in place. Amy Thuente, a member of the Blue Zone Power 9 board, said they've also been working with schools and businesses to help make positive changes. "We actually received funding from another resources to start up walking school buses so we will be starting up two to three at different schools in this community," said Thuente.

Cities don't receive money for being a demonstration site, but it could make those cities more appealing when applying for grants. Leaders also suspect it will encourage more people to invest in Cedar Rapids. "We believe it will bring more business to the area, more restaurants and different options. It's just an economic advantage," said Thuente.

If you would like to take the official Blue Zone pledge you can go to www.bluezones.com
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