The SNAP-Ed Eastern UP LifeSPAN team helps make the UP active

This article is part of Stories of Change, a series of inspiring articles from people who provide evidence-based programs and strategies that empower communities to eat healthy and move more. It is made possible by funding from Michigan Fitness Foundation.

When the COVID-19 closures began to impact the Eastern Upper Peninsula Middle School District (EUPISD), on Life-sustaining physical activity and nutrition (LifeSPAN) The team found the proverbial silver lining and exploited it to create opportunities that will benefit their community long after the pandemic is over.

LifeSPAN is made possible by Michigan Fitness Foundation (MFF) Funding of the Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP-Ed). MFF is a state delivery agency of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for the education component of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. SNAP-Ed is an educational program of the United States Department of Agriculture that teaches people eligible for SNAP how to lead healthier lives. MFF offers grants to conduct SNAP-Ed programs throughout the state of Michigan.

The EUPISD LifeSPAN team works with local partners and community coalitions to increase access to food and provide free / low cost physical activity opportunities. The larger goal is to create lasting change that supports healthy behaviors through their SNAP-Ed environmental policies, systems and changes (PSE) work throughout the Upper Eastern Peninsula.

“Our team has personal connections to the community,” says Paula Finfrock, who is Project Director for LifeSPAN. “It makes us even more passionate about what we do because we can connect with members of our community on a more intimate level. “

They found that physical activity was placed more at the forefront of community needs during the pandemic. Students and community members were not able to go to the gym or go to school, so physical activity declined for everyone. Working with community partners, the LifeSPAN team focused on ways to make people more active by encouraging physical activity through social media posts and connecting families with various free options. or low cost in the community.
The EUPISD LifeSPAN team collaborated with other organizations in the region to organize a Color Run / Walk last August.
Thanks to strong local partnerships with the Building a coalition of healthy communities (BHCC) and Sault Ste. Marie Parks and Recreation, collective efforts have enabled families to enjoy outdoor physical activities throughout the pandemic.

“After seeing the success of a holiday-themed scavenger hunt hosted by Sault Ste. Marie Parks and Recreation, we reached out to the Parks and Recreation Department, BHCC and the local business community to plan a week-long scavenger hunt on the area’s trails, ”Finfrock shares. “They were great. We all got together and had such a big turnout. During this week, as it was happening, we noticed it was gaining traction on social media. More of our families have reported that ‘They wanted to participate, so we decided to extend the event for the whole month, and it was a huge success.

Because the event received so much positive feedback, Sault Ste. Marie Parks and Recreation is working on plans to continue hosting seasonal scavenger hunts, like the Horseshoe event. And LifeSPAN is working with partner organizations to extend this type of event to the entire regional trail network. From there, they created new community traditions that will be easy to carry on after the pandemic. Through EUPISD LifeSPAN’s PSE work, they inspire active living that creates a culture of health across the region.

“Living in the Upper Peninsula, there are lots of opportunities for outdoor physical activity around the corner. However, we have learned that not many people use them, ”says Finfrock. “We also found that while we are in the community where these trails and outdoor opportunities are plentiful, people weren’t sure where they were. Thus, through these events, we work to make them aware of the community’s outdoor facilities.
The EUPISD LifeSPAN team collaborated with other organizations in the region to organize a Color Run / Walk last August.
The EUPISD LifeSPAN team also worked with Kinross Township Council, Kinross Parks and Recreation, Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians Community Health and BHCC to promote a colorful 2k / 5k run / walk last August.

“The race was really cool,” Finfrock said. “The Sault Tribe Health Education Services covered the registration fees for tribal members, and the proceeds from the run / walk supported upgrades to the Kinross Recreation Center gymnasium, which is a free community space where families can be active. “

Like the treasure hunt, the run / walk was also successful and will continue. By raising awareness of the 5K route, the collaboration made it easier for students and families to get together, be active and feel more comfortable using resources at all times, not just during an event. .

As the EUPISD LifeSPAN team works to develop partnerships in the region, its PE work progresses.

“It’s about building relationships and taking the time to really listen to each other to make meaningful change,” said Finfrock. “Here, you have to take the time to open up and talk. It is a part of our culture to connect and have conversations with our elders, children and community members. Being from here matters too. We are not strangers. This means people are more likely to open up and have real conversations about what is happening where the families we serve live, eat, work, play, pray and shop.

By taking the time to have in-depth conversations, they found they were better able to serve the community. In addition to being physically connected as local or regional neighbors, the EUPISD LifeSPAN team is culturally connected. From this work, they are able to build confidence, learn more, and are in a better position to find ways to break old cycles and inspire a healthy lifestyle that will resonate.

Photos courtesy of the Kinross Rec Center.

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