Head­ing for the Blue Zone

Lo­cal farm­ers mar­kets join project to en­cour­age health­ier life­styles

Cape Coral Living - - Cape De­part­ments -

Vis­it­ing your lo­cal farm­ers mar­ket just might in­spire you to be more con­sci­en­tious about your ev­ery­day life­style and over­all well-be­ing. Lo­cal Roots Farm­ers Mar­kets—which op­er­ates nine mar­kets in Lee County—re­cently be­came a Blue Zones Rec­og­nized or­ga­ni­za­tion, part of a global move­ment that en­cour­ages com­mu­ni­ties to im­ple­ment health­ful mind­sets and habits that may ex­tend and im­prove res­i­dents’ longevity and qual­ity of life. Lo­cal Roots is the first in the state to re­ceive the recog­ni­tion for its cat­e­gory. “They’re work­ing with the Blue Zones Project to help make healthy choices eas­ier by be­com­ing a tobacco-free farm­ers mar­ket; of­fer­ing healthy, nu­tri­tious food op­tions; dis­cour­ag­ing the con­sump­tion of sug­ary-sweet­ened bev­er­ages; and pro­mot­ing vol­un­teer op­por­tu­ni­ties,” ex­plains Blue Zones Project South­west Florida En­gage­ment Lead Kate Wal­ter. The ex­pand­ing ini­tia­tive grew out of the best­seller by Na­tional Ge­o­graphic Fel­low Dan Buet­tner. In The Blue Zones: Les­sons for Liv­ing Longer From the Peo­ple Who’ve Lived the Longest, Buet­tner fo­cused on com­mu­ni­ties where peo­ple live ac­tive lives well into their 100s to dis­cern what dis­parate places from Italy to Cal­i­for­nia to Ja­pan have in com­mon. Nine core prin­ci­ples were dis­tilled as the com­mon de­nom­i­na­tors that could be ap­plied in other com­mu­ni­ties to stave off pre­ventable chronic dis­ease and boost emo­tional well­ness. In South­west Florida, the Blue Zones Project was launched by NCH Health­care Sys­tem in 2015, and more than 400 or­ga­ni­za­tions and 16,180 res­i­dents have signed up, says Wal­ter. Most are based in Col­lier County; a dozen or­ga­ni­za­tions are in Bonita Springs and Es­tero, in­clud­ing the Bonita Bay com­mu­nity. Lo­cal Roots co-owner Jean Baer read The Blue Zones book. Join­ing Blue Zones “just so­lid­i­fies our com­mit­ment to pro­mot­ing health­ier life­styles,” Baer says. “We’ve signed the dot­ted line and it holds us to a level of ac­count­abil­ity to do cer­tain things.” The first two Blue Zones mar­kets will be at the Bonita Springs and Co­conut Point lo­ca­tions. More than 60 per­cent of the ven­dors have pledged to join the move­ment; only 25 per­cent were re­quired. More bi­cy­cle racks, cook­ing demon­stra­tions us­ing Florida pro­duce and sup­port­ing the Lakes Park com­mu­nity gar­den are some of the com­mit­ments Lo­cal Roots has made. Most com­plex was meet­ing fed­eral reg­u­la­tions for ac­cept­ing food stamps to help give low-in­come res­i­dents who live in so-called food deserts bet­ter ac­cess to fresh food.

Giv­ing back to the com­mu­nity is al­ready a hall­mark of Lo­cal Roots’ phi­los­o­phy. Last year, for ex­am­ple, 5,000 pounds of pro­duce, baked goods and seafood that wouldn’t carry over from one mar­ket to the next were do­nated by ven­dors, picked up by vol­un­teers and dis­trib­uted through the F.I.S.H. of SanCap pantry. Food that is not con­sum­able by hu­mans is do­nated to CROW (Care and Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of

Giv­ing back to the com­mu­nity is a hall­mark of Lo­cal Roots’ phi­los­o­phy.

Wildlife) on Sani­bel to feed in­jured wildlife un­der­go­ing treat­ment. “It’s a full-cir­cle pro­gram in that al­most all of the food goes to use,” says Baer. Shop­pers can pick up a pledge sheet to join the move­ment and com­mit to life­style changes such as es­tab­lish­ing a walk­ing sched­ule; in­cor­po­rat­ing more beans, fruits and veg­eta­bles into their di­ets; and de­vel­op­ing a pos­i­tive cir­cle of friends or so­cial net­work.

Blue Zones recog­ni­tion was a good fit for Lo­cal Roots Farm­ers Mar­kets, which al­ready of­fers the com­mu­nity healthy choices.

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