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Prepping for "Blue Zones"

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28) -- Cedar Rapids is now on its way to becoming one of the healthiest cities in Iowa: on Monday, organizers kicked off the city's first event since becoming a Blue Zone demonstration site.

"Blue Zones" author and researcher Dan Buettner was in town to say that Iowans need to change the way they think about health.

"How much I weight, how healthy my kids are, how active I am is really a product of my environment," Buettner said.

So, Blue Zones organizers are trying to make the Cedar Rapids environment healthier by doing things like advocating for more bike lanes, making neighborhoods more walkable, and influencing food policy.

Buettner spent three hours on Monday morning talking to local food policy makers and grocery store owners trying to figure out how to make fresh produce people's first choice.

"I was sweating bullets before I went in because this has never really been done, and I think it was a fantastic success," Buettner said.

Some solutions the group came up with include getting rid of sugary drinks at schools and putting community gardens in lower income neighborhoods. The city of Cedar Rapids has also committed to making healthy choices available at city-sponsored sporting events.

"So folks that are hurrying and rushing through their day, they really can get something that's good for the kids to eat, good for them to eat," said Assistant City Manager Sandi Fowler.

Blue Zones leaders say, they can make all the changes they want, but if people don't decide to join the project, it won't work. They'll put out all the resources, and hopefully, people will jump in, said engagement leader Will Lenzen, Jr.

"As a community, as a Blue Zones community, we're going to enjoy a place where people live longer, happier lives," said Lenzen.

In order to officially qualify as a Blue Zone, Cedar Rapids has to meet specific criteria -- like getting 20 percent of the population to pledge to make healthy changes by January 2016.

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