Currently, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, 1 in 7 individuals or 14% of residents are food insecure! In 2021, an effort to address this issue and improve health and wellness of residents throughout the region, resulted in the development and implementation of The Upper Peninsula Food As Medicine (UPFAM) program.
This large collaborative effort consists of 25 partner organizations and agencies throughout the region committed to the on-going coordination and support of this initiative. The program, generously funded by the Superior Health Foundation of Marquette County, is based on a prescription for health model designed to address and improve food security of individuals that are at risk for or diagnosed with a chronic health condition, face economic barriers to food access and are 18 years of age or older.
This program uses a referral process for enrollment. Qualified participants receive a referral from a participating healthcare provider with a prescription for adding fresh fruits and vegetables to their diets. All referrals are processed through the 2-1-1 call center at UPCAP and, once the referral is received, potential participants are contacted by a trained call specialist to discuss the program and complete an enrollment.
Participants enrolled into the program will receive vouchers each month to purchase fruits and vegetables from participating local farm markets (CLICK HER FOR LIST OF MARKETS). The primary goal of the program is to increase access to fresh affordable local produce for participants and to support participant health as well as the local farm economy. Each voucher participants receive is worth $1 and they will receive a total of $15 per week during the 20-week season. Once participants are enrolled in the program they will be mailed the vouchers monthly.
As mentioned previously, one goal of this program is to support local farmers and promote the inclusion and increased access of local produce for residents. As a result, the UPFAM program includes infrastructure development in the form of cold food storage units made available to partnering farms. The additional storage will help to increase access to local, nutritious and culturally appropriate foods and extend the growing season, capacity and economic impact of local producers.
As a member of the UP Food As Medicine Program, you have the opportunity to participate in nutrition education sessions provided by Michigan State University Extension Educators! The one-hour virtual sessions are held once a week for six-weeks and are currently virtual (CLICK HERE FOR A DESCRIPTION OF THE CLASS). There is no cost to attend these sessions and participants that complete 4 of the 6 sessions can earn an additional $40 in produce vouchers! Topics covered include:
A robust evaluation including food security and health outcomes has been included in the program development. The intent of the collection and measurement of data is to share results and lessons learned from the pilot and coordinate with statewide efforts to demonstrate Prescription for Health outcomes which may influence policy.
This program will support the food security of residents, health outcomes and the economic growth of regional food in the following ways:
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Providing information, resources, support and programs to caregivers throughout the U.P.
Providing easy accessible, responsive, and professional information and assistance to Upper Peninsula citizens and families in need, 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week.
Facilitating in home service options to avoid or delay nursing home placement to help individual’s live independently.