Addressing City Commissioners Monday evening, Blue Zones Project (BZP) Organization Lead Miriam Bell introduced two leaders from Homeland grocery stores' corporate office — Brian Haaraoja, VP of merchandising and marketing; and Dennis Maxwell, director of marketing.

Addressing City Commissioners Monday evening, Blue Zones Project (BZP) Organization Lead Miriam Bell introduced two leaders from Homeland grocery stores' corporate office — Brian Haaraoja, VP of merchandising and marketing; and Dennis Maxwell, director of marketing.

They had traveled to Shawnee, telling the board they are honored and excited to participate in the (Blue Zones) Project, and to share news that their local store No. 198 — at 600 W. Independence — will be part of a smoke-free zone.

Haaraoja said the site has already stopped selling cigarettes.

“We look forward to working with (the community and the Blue Zones Project) on this journey we will have both of our stores actually participate in the BZP project to be one of the food providers,” he said. “We just want you to know Homeland's commitment to the program and again, that we are excited and honored that you guys want us to be a part of that.”

Maxwell said though the company has always offered healthy solutions and alternatives, they are now doing more on their part to educate people about healthier choices and make those more readily available.

“We appreciate this as a community and I know the Blue Zones people appreciate it, as well,” Mayor Richard Finley said.

“This is a big deal,” Finley said.

Homeland also has a store (No. 196) at 2705 N. Harrison, in Shawnee.

According to their website, homelandstores.com, Homeland has been employee-owned since 2012 and is Oklahoma's largest locally owned grocery chain with 31 locations statewide.

About Blue Zones Project

Blue Zones Project® is a community-led well-being improvement initiative designed to make healthy choices easier through permanent changes to a city’s environment, policy, and social networks. Established in 2010, Blue Zones Project is inspired by Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow and New York Times best-selling author who identified five regions of the world—or Blue Zones®—with the highest concentration of people living to 100 years or older. Blue Zones Project incorporates Buettner’s findings and works with cities to implement policies and programs that will move a community toward optimal health and well-being. Currently, 42 communities in nine states have joined Blue Zones Project, impacting more than 3.3 million Americans nationwide. Besides being active in Shawnee, the movement includes three beach cities in California; 15 cities in Iowa; Albert Lea, Minnesota; the city of Fort Worth; and communities in Southwest Florida, Hawaii, Oregon and Wisconsin. Blue Zones Project is a division of Sharecare. For more information, visit bluezonesproject.com.