The Hy-Vee supermarket in Spencer, Iowa, unveiled its status as a certified Blue Zones grocery store Aug. 31, demonstrating the ongoing commitment of the West Des Moines-based chain to Iowa’s Healthiest State Initiative.

Some of the most visible changes at the store are the Blue Zones checkout lanes, which feature healthy snacks, including fruits and nuts, instead of candy bars and salty snacks, said store director Carl Haidar in a news release.

Other changes that helped the store achieve Blue Zones certification include increasing space for fresh produce and providing in-store demonstrations featuring fresh fruits and vegetables conducted by dietitians. The certification is part of the Blue Zones Project.

Spencer is one of the first four Iowa communities selected to participate in the project. The other three are Cedar Falls, Mason City and Waterloo. Six more Iowa towns of 10,000 population or more will be selected to participate in the Blue Zones Project.

The project is based on principles developed by Dan Buettner, an explorer and author who teamed up with National Geographic in 2004 and hired longevity researchers'Blue Zone' Hy -Vee spotlights fresh produce to identify pockets around the world where people lived measurably better. In these so-called Blue Zones people live to 100 at rates 10 times greater than in the U.S., and one of the common denominators was the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Buettner founded Blue Zones LLC, Minneapolis, and launched the Blue Zones Project to help communities, businesses and other organizations lift the level of health and happiness of their residents, employees and members.

'Blue Zone' Hy -Vee spotlights fresh produce In August 2011 Hy-Vee’s now-retired chief executive officer Ric Jurgens joined Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, the state’s congressional delegation and other leaders in launching Iowa’s Healthiest State Initiative.

The goal is to raise Iowa from the rank of 16th healthiest, as measured by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index to the No. 1 spot by 2016. The project includes seeking Blue Zones certification for Hy-Vee stores in Iowa.

Helen Eddy, executive director of the Healthiest State Initiative, said supermarkets are one of the best businesses to promote health and wellness, according to the Hy-Vee release.

Eddy said progress has been made helping people understand they can influence their health in a positive way by what they choose to eat. But, she said in the release, there is still confusion and misconceptions to overcome.

By becoming a certified Blue Zones supermarket, the Spencer Hy-Vee has sent a clear signal to consumers that the store is ready to help guide them to a healthier lifestyle, Eddy said.