Food Assistance Programs – Resources

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Find Food Assistance

Click on a Food System below to explore the assistance programs available for you to connect with and apply for benefits.

Call 211 for a advisor to help with understanding your situation and guiding you to the applicable resources.

System: Emergency Food System

The Emergency Food System in Northwest Michigan is operated by non-profit organizations and faith-based organizations.

In the Emergency Food System, Food Banks serve as food distributors and conveners of programs that address food security issues. Food Banks are like wholesales in the for-profit food system and food pantries are analogous to retail grocery stores in the for-profit food system.

Nationally, most food banks are part of the Feeding America network. In West Lower Michigan (west of I-75) and the Upper Peninsula, Feeding America West Michigan serves as the convening food bank and operates a main warehouse in Grand Rapids, and a satellite warehouse in Cadillac. Roughly 10 of the 70 members of the Northwest Food Coalition are members of Feeding America and are eligible to buy discounted shelf stable food from the Grand Rapids warehouse. Traverse City does not have it’s own local food bank.


Population served: seniors, disabled, low income individuals and families, people experiencing an economic disruption

Source: Non-profit Partners

  • Private donations, grants
  • The Emergency Food Assistant Program (TEFAP) – commodity food to select private organizations providing charitable food distribution.

Most of the food assistance programs in the United States are public, meaning that they are funded by acts of Congress.  The Emergency Food System is privately funded for the most part, though some members, but not all, of the Emergency Food System may occasionally receive surplus food to distribute through the USDA Commodity Food programs and The Emergency Food Assistance Program.

System: Family Food System


Population served: Low Income Individuals and Families, Pregnant Women, Infants & Children

Federal Food Assistance comes from several Acts of Congress but they are administered by the state.

In Michigan, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services operates a portal where you can apply once for all assistance programs, including SNAP and WIC. The Michigan Bridge card is a pre-loaded debit card that is loaded each month and can be used to purchase select food items at retail grocery stores. Both SNAP and WIC benefits are loaded on debit cards.

Click here to apply to MI Bridge Portal.

Source: Federal Food Assistance

  • USDA Farm Bill
  • Child Nutrition Act

System: Farm Food System


Population served: Double Up Food Bucks – SNAP recipients (low income households), WIC Project Fresh – WIC recipients that visit farmers markets, Senior Project Fresh – seniors over age 60

Several programs exist to connect people to farm markets and promote both nutrition (eating fresh fruits and vegetables) and the local farm economy.


  • Non-profit Partners: Fair Food Network
  • Federal Food Assistance: Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program

System: Educational Food System


  • School Breakfast Program
  • National School Lunch Program (Free & Reduced Lunch Program)
  • Summer Food Service Program
  • School Backpacks for weekend meals*
  • School Food Pantries*

Population served: Low Income Families with Children

Several programs exist to feed students in public school. The Federal programs are funded by the USDA Farm Bill. Families must apply through their child’s school administration office.

*Note: Backpack programs for weekends and school pantries are a part of Emergency Food Systems (EFS). Backpacks are packed by food pantries and dropped off at schools.  Many schools also operate a food pantry for students and families.  Families signup at the school building office.

Click here to apply for Traverse Area Public Schools free and reduced lunch.

Source: Federal Food Assistance

  • USDA Farm Bill

System: Healthcare Food System


  • Shape Up North Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program – a doctor referral-based program to improve health outcomes
  • Helping You Heal program – clinical study on the impact of nutrition on the healing of food insecure patients; meal packages for 10 days post hospital release

Population served: low income, senior patients after discharge

Source: Munson Healthcare System

  • Shape Up North
  • Community Health Innovation Region (CHIR)

System: Senior Food System


Population served: seniors, disabled

There are many food assistance programs available to low income seniors. Food assistance programs can be applied for through MI Bridges portal.

Click here to apply to MI Bridge Portal.

Source: Federal Food Assistance

  • USDA Farm Bill
  • Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008

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