Devotay designated a Blue Zone restaurant


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Local restaurant Devotay has recently been designated a Blue Zone restaurant, as part of a larger, ongoing health campaign involving the whole community.

The restaurant, which has been in business for 18 years and serves foods from the Iberian Peninsula, received the honor last week.

Devotay owner Kurtis Michael Friese said his restaurant was chosen because of its decision to use the freshest locally sourced ingredients available. 

“Local food is fresher food, and fresher food is more healthful,” Friese said.

Blue Zones are areas of the world where the local population is extremely long-lived, because of choices in living and diet. Dan Buettner founded the Blue Zones company based on what he found after visiting these areas.

Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield collaborated with Blue Zones and Healthways to implement the Blue Zones Project in Iowa, as part of Gov. Terry Branstad’s Healthiest State Initiative in 2011.

Tom Banta, an organization lead for Healthways in Iowa, said out of the 87 communities in Iowa that applied to be a part of the project, only 15 were accepted.

The project is then broken down into six areas: communities, worksites, restaurants, grocery stores, schools, and citizens.

Banta, who focuses on worksites, restaurants, and grocery stores, said the goal for local restaurants is to get 22 Blue Zone certified by the time the project finishes at the end of January 2016.

Iowa City City Councilor Rick Dobyns said that as a physician, he’s, “really excited by the Blue Zone initiative; it’s kind of health advice that makes sense.”

Over time, Dobyns said people will become familiar with which restaurants are Blue Zone certified, making healthy eating choices easier.

Daniel Knowles, the head chef at Devotay, said before coming to Devotay, he had run the gamut of restaurants from big chains to bar-and-grill-type places.

Knowles said he remembers working at a bar and grill, and he saw a man take advantage of a chicken wings deal. He said he felt as if he was killing the customer.

“We should be feeding people and feeding people well,” he said.

A major component to feeding people well comes from the fresh, local food the restaurant uses.

“We want to offer awesome local food, super fresh, and in that, when you’re focused on those kinds of things, it just kind of comes by that you happen to be selling healthy food,” Knowles said.

Knowles said that to be Blue Zone certified, the menu went through almost no changes.

Banta said although Devotay is the first Iowa City restaurant to be designated a Blue Zone restaurant, many other places have committed, such as the Hy-Vee on Waterfront Drive, the Iowa City School District, and the University of Iowa.

“At the end of the day, this thing is a community-led … initiative designed to make the healthy choice the easy choice,” Banta said.

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