Here's a great question quietly being asked in Chattanooga.

Can we live to 100?

Here's a great question quietly being asked in Chattanooga.
Bread-making, Niedlov's, Main St., Chattanooga, Tennessee

Oct. 11, 2023

Not long ago, I was outside Aldi talking with a friend headed to a meeting where folks were asking a most intriguing question.

Could Chattanooga become a Blue Zone city?

Scattered across the globe, there are cities and towns – known as Blue Zones – where the percentage of people living to 100 is astronomically higher. Heavily-researched, these communities are considered among the healthiest and happiest on Earth.

Nicoya, Costa Rica. Okinawa, Japan. Loma Linda, California. Ikaria, Greece. Sardinia, Italy.

Such a concentrated abundance of centenarians is not accidental. As a new Netflix series gorgeously demonstrates, these communities are defined by intentional ways of living.

There's a lifelong sense of meaning, community and belonging. A heightened religious or spiritual practice. Regular exercise. Lots of walking, little driving. Herbal tea. Wine. Saltwater.

And food.

Locally grown, fresh, non-processed food.

Could Chattanooga become a Blue Zone city?

It sounds crazy. Yet consider, at one point, people quietly whispered:

Could Chattanooga really build an aquarium?

Could Chattanooga become an outdoor city?

Could Chattanooga really recruit VW?

We're looking for sponsors and supporters. Email

Theoretically, yes. Anything's possible. Realistically? Perhaps we should consider something more attainable than 100. Maybe a Baby Blue Zone before we reach azure.

Chattanooga suffers from one of the lowest life expectancy rates in the nation, according to January reports, at 76 years.

It is reasonable to consider a new goal: a county-wide life expectancy rate of, say, 80.

Hamilton County can consult with Blue Zones Project, whose work with other American cities is demonstrably effective:

  • Double digit drops in obesity, smoking, and body mass index, including one CA town that saw obesity drop by 25%.
  • Millions of dollars of savings in healthcare costs, including one MN town whose health care claims dropped by half and life expectancy increased by three years.

Food as a Verb thanks Whitney Drayer, senior vice-president at Morgan Stanley, for his generous support.

Contact Whitney at or 423-752-4736.

For some, this is painfully acute, as part of Chattanooga isn't even asking for Blue Zone life. Some people just want the resources to reach equality.

"The life expectancy of Blacks in Chattanooga is nearly six years less than that of whites," reports the Urban League's 2022 State of Black Chattanooga.

Cancer. Hypertension. Diabetes. All exist at higher rates for Black Chattanooga, where ongoing health crises have existed for decades.

There are deep social and economic plates buried within the substrata of Chattanooga; the Blue Zones Project could begin to shift our community in transformative ways that finally address health as a core political issue.

Next week, Food as a Verb will report more on a local group – and one farm – that's developing a plan.

This Thurs., the Chattanooga Food Policy Coalition has its fall meeting. It begins at 5.30 pm at the Avondale Community Center.

"Imagine a city where fresh, nutritious food is accessible to all. It's challenging, long-term work, but we're committed to collaborating to turn this vision into reality. We need your input, your experience, and your passion. Together, we can make a difference."

To register, visit here.

As always, we thank you, Food as a Verb friends, for your support and kindness.

See you Sunday,


(Remember to shop local farmers' markets.)

Alysia Leon, Bird Fork Farm, Main St. Farmers' Market, Chattanooga, Tennessee

All photography by Sarah Unger. Visit

Story ideas? Interested in sponsorship opportunities + supporting our work? Feedback or questions? Email David Cook at This story is 100% human generated; no AI chatbot was used in the creation of this content.

Food as a Verb thanks our sustaining partners for their generous support.

Regional Farmers Markets

  • Main St. Farmers Market, Corner of W. 20th and Chestnut St., near Finley Stadium

Wednesday, 4 - 6pm

  • Brainerd Farmers Market, Grace Episcopal Church, 20 Belvoir Ave,

Saturday, 10am - noon

  • Chattanooga Market, 1820 Carter Street

Sunday, 11am - 4pm

  • Ooltewah Farmers Market, The Ooltewah Nursery

Thursday, 3 - 6pm 

  • Signal Mountain Farmers Market

Pre-order online for Thursday pick-up between 4 - 6pm at Bachman Community Center

  • St. Albans Farmers Market, 7514 Hixson Pike

Saturday, 9.30am - 12.30pm with a free pancake breakfast every third Saturday  

  • Walker County Farmers Market

Wednesday, 2 - 5 pm, Rock Spring Ag. Center 

Saturday, 9 am - 1 pm, downtown Lafayette, Georgia

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