Utopia Foundation makes Northern Michigan food affordable by supporting communities to achieve farm-fresh food for al. Here’s what they are doing in Traverse City, Michigan and beyond.
When founder Paul Sutherland sat down with the newly formed Utopia Foundation’s board of directors in 2007, the team decided the world did not need another nonprofit. So it was resolved that Utopia would instead support existing organizations aligned with Utopia’s mission—namely, early childhood development and healthy, resilient communities. Since then, the organization has assisted dozens of global and local programs, largely through matching grants and an initiative called Utopia Gifts, which lets donors search for and give to highly vetted projects and nonprofits listed on Utopia’s website.
In Traverse City, Utopia Foundation makes Northern Michigan food affordable with Double-Up Food Bucks, a statewide nonprofit program that doubles the money on a SNAP Bridge Card (the modern version of food stamps) when used at a Northern Michigan farmers market rather than at a big-box or grocery store. With 22,000 people eligible for the program in the region—40 percent of whom are children—Utopia jumped at the chance to assist the Michigan Land Use Institute in bringing Double-Up Food Bucks to the area. “On top of increasing access and affordability of healthy food, it improves our local economy and gives a boost to local farmers,” says Dorothy Sirrine, Utopia Foundation’s executive director. In 2012, that amounted to $48,000 for local farms—and access to nutritious, locally grown food for more of the Northern Michigan community. utopiafound.org.