ALBERT LEA, Minn. – The Blue Zones Project is continuing to grow in communities across the country, but some of you may not know that it actually all began right here in our area.
Albert Lea leaders made a major announcement that is looking to bring Blue Zones back to where it all began.
Five years ago, Blue Zones was born through a ten-month pilot project in Albert Lea. After being developed in many communities across the country, city leaders are ready to move forward again.
“This really gives a renewed energy to see the city come together again,” said Albert Lea Mayor, Vern Rasmussen.
Community leaders announced that five years removed from launching the program, they are looking to get themselves certified as an official Blue Zones Community.
“Just a lot of energy, you’re really seeing a lot of people coming together. Meeting, talking, walking, looking at different alternatives of lifestyles as far as healthy living. It really created a buzz within our community,” Rasmussen said.
The city earned certification for their work during the pilot project, but the current requirements were put in place after their work was done.
“We can actually designate our work sites, our restaurants, grocery stores, schools. With designation, they get recognitions, certificates, and we’ll have ribbon cuttings,” said Ellen Kehr, organization lead for the Albert Lea Blue Zones Project.
They are really hoping to expand on what has already resulted from working with Blue Zones.
“Five miles of built sidewalk gaps, the bike lane, healthy snack carts, disk golf courses, one thing after another. We did all of that, after the Blue Zones pilot project, because what they gave us is the vision,” Kehr said.
Community leaders say it is about more than just having the title of a Blue Zone Community. It is about making sure we are staying healthy.
“This is the first generation of children that have a life expectancy less than their parents in the country. In Albert Lea, Minnesota, we want that not to be so,” Kehr said.
The funding for these projects is coming from Healthways Inc. and Blue Zones. It is set to launch on the first of the month and will last an entire year. Once the requirements are met, the city will earn the title of an official Blue Zones Community.