UPPER PENINSULA, Mich. (WJMN) – A new program from the Upper Peninsula Commission for Area Progress (UPCAP) is helping Yoopers gain access to fresh produce from local farm markets. The ‘Prescription for Health’ program is run through UPCAP’s Upper Peninsula Food as Medicine team.

UPCAP says the program aims to address and improve food security for low-income residents who are at risk of developing or already have a chronic health condition. The program is run through a referral program for eligible people aged 18 and up, with $15 vouchers provided each week per household for 20 weeks to redeem for fruits and vegetables. You can click here to see a list of current referral partners for the program.

“There’s been some studies to show that increasing access and intake of fresh fruits and vegetables can help prevent and manage some of those conditions better,” said Tammy Rosa, nutrition program manager for UPCAP. “And so we know also in the Upper Peninsula, we have a shorter growing period, and we have some areas that are considered food deserts where you may not have easy access to be able to purchase some of those fresh produce items. And so that’s one of the reasons that we are implementing this program to be able to increase access for many throughout the U.P.”

‘Prescription for Health’ was made possible through a grant from the Superior Health Foundation to address food insecurity. Currently, UPCAP says about 1 in 7 residents in the U.P. faces food insecurity. The program is open to people whose income is at 200% of the federal poverty level or below.

Currently, the following ten markets will participate in the program:

  • Downtown Marquette Farmers Market
  • Gladstone Farmers Market
  • Newberry Farmers Market
  • Main Street Calumet Farmers Market
  • Depot Park Farmers & Artisans’ Market in Ironwood
  • Houghton Farmers Market
  • Hancock Tori & Farmers Market
  • Bay Mills/Brimley Farmers Market
  • Sault Ste. Marie Farmers Market
  • Munising Farmers Market

You can find additional details on dates and hours of operation for each market here. Rosa says the program is available across the U.P., and UPCAP plans to continue growing its list of partners in the future.

Participants will also have the ability to earn additional vouchers by completing nutritional educational courses through Michigan State University’s Extension Nutrition Education program. You can learn more about the courses on UPCAP’s Food as Medicine program page.

At the conclusion of the ‘Prescription for Health’ program, Rosa says UPCAP will study the impact of the program to gather information about its impact and to share with officials.

“The goal really is to gather some data and information to be able to share with other Prescription for Health programs throughout the state and nationally,” Rosa said. “And hopefully be able to impact some legislation so that we can look at providing continuous funding for programming like this throughout the state, and in fact throughout the country.”

Additionally, the Upper Peninsula Food and Medicine program is hoping to increase access to produce for Yoopers by supporting infrastructure for local farmers. The program recently began offering cold food storage units to partnering farms with the goal to increase food access, as well as extend the growing season, capacity, and economic impact of local producers.

For full details on the ‘Prescription for Health’ program including contact information, visit UPCAP’s website here.