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'Blue Zones Project' continues to grow in Dodge County

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JUNEAU, Wis. - Dodge County's version of the nationwide 'Blue Zones Project,' founded in partnership with a local hospital in 2016 to certify workplaces, restaurants, schools and other organizations as promoting healthy lifestyles, continues to grow, adding its first restaurant in Juneau.

The Blue Zones Project is a healthy lifestyle initiative that promotes eating nutritious foods, exercising and mental wellness in schools, churches and restaurants. It's funded by the Beaver Dam Community Hospital Foundation.

The Barrel House Saloon officially became a "blue zone" Thursday.

Owner Joe Storrm said having a heart attack last year changed his outlook on life, getting him to quit smoking and eat healthier. He said he got involved with Blue Zones because he wanted to give people healthier options at his establishment alongside the typical pub fare, if they so choose.

"If we can help people realize there's options and healthier ways to do things, we're more than willing to do that," Storrm said. "It just seemed like a win win for everybody."

The restaurant made minor tweaks to its menu and the way it serves food in order to qualify, adding healthier entrees, like a Portobello mushroom sandwich and a smaller hamburger, plus healthier side options.

The restaurant also removed salt shakers from the table, making them only available upon request.

"We want people to taste the food first before dumping a lot of salt on it," Storrm said.

Leslie Covell Hershberger, who heads the Dodge County Blue Zones Project, said the idea behind Blue Zones are to get small, healthier-lifestyle choices in the places people already are.

"Where do people spend 90 percent of their time? They spend it at the grocery store, their restaurants and their work," she said. "(Those are) the kind of places that we're going to and trying to make small changes."

Covell Hershberger said the project is about more than eating healthy. She said Blue Zones has helped workplaces install standing desks, for example, and is also advocating for municipal governments to make street improvements that are more conducive for pedestrian and bicycle use, thereby encouraging active lifestyles.

Storrm said he hopes becoming a Blue Zone brings in customers who otherwise might not patronize his restaurant. He said the results, so far, have been promising.

"I've seen a lot of new faces," he said.

Covell Hershberger said on the group will hold a ribbon cutting on Monday at Inter-Quest, a technology company in Beaver Dam, certifying its workplace as a Blue Zone.


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