Blue Zones Project to Facilitate Healthy Change For A Better Tomorrow in Salinas Community
June Kickoff Event to Emphasize Foundational Roots of Family, Health and Education
SALINAS, Calif., June 6, 2019 — As the Monterey County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Deneen Guss is intimately familiar with the health challenges the community is facing, and the impact they have on students.
“Right now in Salinas, more than half of us don’t engage in enough natural movement, despite beautiful weather year-round and access to a multitude of parks and recreation areas. Our busy lifestyles just don’t allow for the amount of exercise we need. Unfortunately, this applies not only to our community’s adults, but also our children and youth.”
Salinas family physician Dr. Joanna Oppenheim is also well aware of the struggles facing her patients and the community. “Through my practice, every day I see first-hand that too many Salinas residents don’t exercise often or consume enough fruits and vegetables. As a result, more than two-thirds of us in this community are overweight or obese, and at greater risk for diabetes and other health problems.”
The challenges related to insufficient diet and inadequate exercise in Salinas and Monterey County are significant:
- Just under half of all residents do not eat enough fruits and vegetables.
- Almost half of all local adults are pre-diabetic, and most of them aren’t aware of it or doing anything to address their status.
- Thousands of local families can’t afford or don’t have access to healthy foods. A single woman with children in Salinas spends more than one-third of her income on food.
- Inexpensive options such as fast food are often the meal of choice despite their poor nutritional value.
To address these and other concerns, Salinas and Monterey County are introducing Blue Zones Project® to the community. Blue Zones Project is a growing nationwide well-being improvement initiative that makes healthy choices easier through permanent and semi-permanent changes to a community’s built environment, policy, and social networks. The initiative is based on global research by National Geographic Fellow and best-selling author Dan Buettner and follows Blue Zones Power 9 Principles, those common characteristics of the world’s longest-lived people.
An inaugural Community Kickoff Event for Blue Zones Project in Monterey County has been confirmed for June 29 in Salinas.
Dr. Oppenheim is optimistic about the impact Blue Zones Project will have on the community. “I’m excited that Blue Zones Project is coming to Salinas because it will help support my patients in building healthier habits such as improving their diet, increasing their movement, and expanding their connectivity to their families and the people they interact with, all of which align with Power 9 Principles such as putting family first. I am certain this will improve their overall health.
“The beauty of Blue Zones Project is in the way it complements and supports the good works already in place locally. For example, the Food Bank for Monterey County serves one in five Monterey County residents and feeds 10,800 people every week, with half of those being children. 98% of program participants eat more fruits and vegetables because of the Food Bank.”
Blue Zones Project works with community leaders to identify and implement best practices in food policy, increasing access to healthy foods and reducing the number of families that are food insecure. The local team partnered with the Food Bank for Monterey County earlier this year to host the community’s first Blue Zones Project food policy summit. Forty attendees representing various sectors, including city government, food banks and local restaurateurs, provided input on food policy priorities and how to action them.
More than twenty educators, school administrators, and parents joined the Blue Zones Project team last month to learn about opportunities to make healthy choices easier in schools. Best practices can include healthy vending and cafeteria options, school gardens, brain breaks, increased physical activity, Walking School Buses, and mindfulness activities. Schools participating in Blue Zones Project have seen reductions in absenteeism and disciplinary actions, improved test scores and graduation rates, as well as significant decreases in childhood obesity.
Dr. Guss also feels strongly about the opportunities afforded by Blue Zones Project in Salinas. “In our schools we have a perfect opportunity through Blue Zones Project to help our young people better understand the healthy choices that can easily be incorporated into their everyday lives, such as engaging in more natural movement. It can be as easy as choosing to take the stairs instead of riding in an elevator. Students will share those learnings with their parents, their siblings and their caregivers, so all members of the family will benefit from the information we share with them in our schools.
“I also see opportunities through Blue Zones Project to promote the effective programs already in place in the community, such as the Salvation Army’s After School Program that supports our children through activities such as homework assistance and counseling, sports and clubs, and dance, art and music programs.
“By asking all schools to take the pledge to living healthier, happier lives, Blue Zones Project will create a roadmap to healthier and happier environments for the students and families the schools serve.”
“If we spend time at the end of our day downshifting, relaxing, slowing down, having some fun, that can be very beneficial in terms of long-term health, and that’s where Blue Zones Project is going to be integral to Salinas,” added Dr. Oppenheim. “And if you have a community that supports healthy eating, that supports natural movement, that understands that sometimes you’ve got to leave your work at the office and switch your phone off to enjoy an uninterrupted evening with your family, then those behaviors become the norm. And everyone benefits from it.”
The Kickoff offers an opportunity for attendees to experience how living in a Blue Zones Project community feels and through these activities engage them in being a part of the transformation. Participants will hear from Blue Zones founder Dan Buettner, who will share the Blue Zones story and encourage community members to participate in one or more of the many Blue Zones Project areas: Worksites, Schools, Policy, Moais, Walking School Bus, Purpose Workshop and Volunteering.
Event: Blue Zones Project Monterey County Kickoff
Date: Saturday, June 29, 2019
Time: 1:00pm to 4:30pm
Where: Sherwood Hall
940 North Main Street
Salinas, CA 93901
Speaker: Dan Buettner, New York Times Best-Selling Author of
The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People
For more information and to RSVP for the Kickoff Event: