NMU Rural Health partnership established with new grant

NMU opens the doors to the new NMU Center for Rural Health. The center was established after receiving grant money from the Michigan Endowment fund and aims towards providing Marquette County with an influx of nutrient dense food.


Joleigh Martinez/NW

Joad Blaauw-Hara, Contributing Writer

The NMU Center for Rural Health has been established following a grant from the Michigan Health Endowment fund. From the $194,421, the center plans on improving the flow of nutrient-dense food throughout Marquette and Alger County.

According to the NMU Center for Rural Health homepage, the center’s mission seeks to improve the health and well-being of Upper Peninsula residents and communities by developing collaborative partnerships that improve the access and availability of affordable, quality healthcare services.

“This two-year planning project represents an opportunity to solve multiple challenges with our food system through cooperation and collaboration,” Elise Bur, NMU Center for Rural Health director, said. “It emphasizes working together to explore a sustainable way to increase access to food for all residents.”

From the new addition to NMU, Bur said that the center will benefit a wide array of businesses from the partnership’s establishment.

“Charitable organizations such as food pantries, institutional purchasers such as schools and long-term care facilities, and retail establishments such as grocery stores will be engaged in this exploratory two-year planning grant,” said Bur. She also elaborated on how the partnership plans to recruit new organizations.

“Throughout the project, partners will engage with community leaders, stakeholders and community members by having meetings, hosting focus groups and conducting surveys,” Bur said. “Opportunities for community-wide participation will be promoted and engagement will be encouraged.”

Although this is only the beginning. With the partnership, the hope for the center is to evolve and improve over time.

“Stakeholder input is essential in developing a sustainable model for implementation and partners look forward to engaging individuals from the start of the project,” Bur said. “Two-way, ongoing communication is imperative in determining next steps toward making this multi-use structure a future reality.”

As the center takes off and continues to grow and improve over time, Bur said that the partnership could be a blueprint for similar organizations that could eventually be seen across the country.

“In the event this multi-use facility proves feasible, we anticipate this could impact other areas of the U.P. by reducing current distribution expenses,” Bur said. “Additionally, this model could be replicated in other rural areas nationwide.”

While there are no current plans for reaching a specific goal for countywide nutrition, the project remains ambitious with plans for a light food processing plant and food distribution warehouse.

For those looking to help improve the state of nutrient-dense food, Bur said that donating food to local pantries, buying from local farmer’s markets and participating in any food-related events when possible.