Nine Decorah representatives attended the Blue Zone Institute (BZI) in Des Moines last month.

This two-day, intense training session was held to prepare the smaller designated communities for their Blue Zone project certification. Attendees were educated on the criteria to become Blue Zones certified and its positive impact to a community's overall health and wellbeing.

"I am most excited to have community conversations about how collectively we can make decisions to make the healthy choice the easy choice. And to know that as a community wellness is built into the framework of our largest institutions and our daily endeavors," said Emily Neal, Blue Zone Power 9 member and BZI attendee. (Power 9 is a group of individuals in charge of leading the committees that implement a community's Blue Print.)

Breakout sessions on the first day focused on the four key components of Blue Zone certification: worksite, schools, community policy and restaurants/grocery stores. The second day broke down into volunteerism, walking school bus, walking moai and purpose workshops. Those in attendance at the training were: Chad Bird- city manager/ Blue Zone Co-Chair

Nikki Brevig- DACC E.D./ Blue Zones co-chair; Emily Neal- director of school outreach, wellness, sustainability and the environment, Luther College/Power 9; Carolyn Corbin- Corbin Consulting, Decorah City Council/Power 9; Ann Mansfield- Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness;

Gina Holthaus- Decorah Schools/ school co-lead; Amy Pipho- Decorah Schools/ school co-lead;

Dominique Bockman- owner T-Bocks/restaurant co-lead; and Ashley Christensen- Upper Explorerland Safe Routes to Schools coordinator.

The next steps for Decorah's project will be to reconvene both the Power 9 and the Leadership co-leads to outline the Blue Print process and future timeline in becoming Blue Zone certified. There will also be focus groups and additional committees meeting in each of these key areas. The Blue Zone team is still seeking people in several key areas. If anyone is interested in being involved in Blue Zones, please contact the Decorah Area Chamber of Commerce to determine your interest areas and provide your contact information.

Last year the Decorah community pushed for pledges from individuals to commit to action items making them happier and healthier. Now as part of the Blue Zone certification, the community will be asked to login to bluezonesproject.com to complete their pledge actions.