Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) works to create community-driven solutions to expand opportunities for active living, healthy eating, and commercial tobacco-free living, helping area residents prevent chronic diseases including cancer, heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
Thanks for your hard work and dedication!

Yodit Gidey

Healthy Northland would like to thank Yodit Gidey! Yodit began working at the Carlton Cook Lake St. Louis Community Health Board back in 2013. Yodit’s support for the day-to-day operations has been critical to the accomplishments of SHIP, ATOD, and other CCLS CHB programs. She always stepped in to help make projects and events successful. While at the CCLS CHB, Yodit also contributed to the community in many other ways including service as an AmeriCorps member. Healthy Northland is very grateful for Yodit’s support over the years.  We wish her all the best the next phase of her career and look forward to her continued contributions to the well-being of NE MN residents!

Kelsey Gantzer

Kelsey joined the Rutabaga Project at the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency (AEOA) in 2018.  While with the Rutabaga Project, Kelsey organized and coordinated efforts to increase healthy food accessibility across many Iron Range communities.  She also supported farm to school efforts as well as other broader regional initiatives. In March 2021, Kelsey started her new role as the Executive Director at the Duluth Community School Collaborative. We look forward to continuing to partner with Kelsey in the future!  
Partner Spotlights
AICHO recognized by MDH
The American Indian Community Housing Organization (AICHO) was recently highlighted by MDH for their collaboration on creating materials promoting COVID-19 safety such as mask wearing and getting vaccinated. Billboards, posters, banners, and coloring sheets with beautiful artwork are being used to engage and educate the community. Combining cultural messaging and public health information has been a powerful tool in sharing COVID-19 information to protect American Indian Minnesotans. Check out the article here.
Images from the AICHO Facebook page and the MDH article.

Aitkin County
Aitkin County SHIP continues to support COVID-19 response efforts. SHIP work in the county helped coordinate an emergency response community food drive. Visit the Aitkin County SHIP website to view and download the Food Drive Toolkit that was created to encourage nutrition, usefulness, and quality over quantity when taking food donations. 

Other projects happening are the Aitkin Local Food Hub which is an online platform for purchasing local food. Aitkin County SHIP Coordinator Hannah Colby is also providing technical assistance for grant writing and website development for a Park and Recreation task force with multiple goals such as improvements to park access and physical activity. 

Keep up with the Aitkin County SHIP website to see all the great work happening!
American Lung Association
Tobacco Ordinance Updates: The cities of Aitkin, Grand Marais, and Moose Lake are actively working to update their tobacco ordinances. Check out this FAQ to learn more about tobacco ordinance updates. If you are interested in a training or more information on this topic, contact Taylour Blakeman (

2020 Youth Tobacco Survey: Read highlights from the survey here
- One in five Minnesota high school students are using e-cigarettes
- 70% of youth currently using e-cigs report having experience signs of dependence
- 57.3% of current users expressed interest in quitting
(highlights importance of Quit Partner services)

Quit Partner posters at COVID-19 testing sites: We are targeting COVID-19 testing sites to distribute Quit Partner posters. Smoking can increase your risk of severe illness from COVID-19. It is also advised to not eat, drink, or smoke 30 minutes before getting a COVID-19 test. If you are interested in receiving materials contact Michaela at
Backus Community Center
Proudly seated in the center of International Falls, Backus Community Center is bustling with activity!  One would expect that days at Backus might be quiet at this time, but that simply is not the case.  Here are some of the happenings available to our Northern Minnesota residents:
  • Community Café is a meal service program operated by Backus Community Center that brings hot, nutritious meals to area residents every Tuesday and Thursday evening.  Guests pick up hot meals to take home.  Many people provide delivery service to others who have limited mobility.  Community Café has been consistently serving an average of 250 meals each night since the onset of COVID-19.
  • Ruby’s Pantry is a food distribution program open to the public that operates on the second Monday of each month.  Guests drive through the Backus parking area to pick up a “share” of food.  A share consists of approximately 100 pounds of food, including meat, dairy, produce, and various refrigerated, frozen, and dry goods.  An average of 300 shares are allocated to the community through Ruby’s Pantry.
  • Performing Arts continue with limited audience capacities in our 1,000 seat auditorium.  Musicians come to International Falls to entertain people with a wide range of music styles.  As expected, these opportunities are appreciated and all safety measures are carefully followed.
  • KCC-TV is our local public access television channel and operated as a Backus program.  KCC-TV provides a service for citizens to stay informed of all local government operations and community happenings.   KCC-TV is also the key component in promoting the community’s artistic talents that are part of the “Hidden Talents” program that is funded by the Minnesota State Arts Board.
  • Training sessions and meetings are conducted at Backus by public and private organizations.  Backus is uniquely positioned to offer spaces large enough so organizations can facilitate meetings and training sessions for small and large groups. 
  • Political forums are well received in the auditorium.  Candidate forums are conducted for local and state-wide elections.  Representatives come to address issues that impact local residents and together, people learn.
  • Health and Wellness is a part of life at Backus, too.  People walk the halls and climb the stairs in safety and comfort.  A “Walkercise” class meets regularly.
  • Gardening is a popular draw to Backus.  The Backus Garden Club is open to anyone in the community who wants to come learn about gardening or to share their skills and knowledge with others.  Gardeners work in the soil and are expanding to hydroponics this year!
  • Art Shows come alive in our large meeting gallery.  Local photographers, art collectors, and commemorative groups bring their collections and wares to show in our display areas.  
  • AARP Tax Service provides free income tax preparation services to individuals each spring.
  • Local Businesses continue to rent office space in the Backus Building.  There are several critical needs services housed under the Backus roof.
For more information and current happenings, please see the Backus Website at, or stop by our office at 900 5th Street, International Falls. We’d be happy to see you!
Staff Spotlight

Jayme Smith, Itasca County

Jayme is a public health nurse educator and SHIP coordinator for Itasca County Public Health. Jayme graduated from Bemidji State University with a Bachelor of Science Nursing degree with a minor in Psychology and has been a registered nurse for 10 years. After working in other areas of nursing, Jayme began her role as a public health nurse in 2016. Jayme noticed a constant between all nursing specialities: education. She enjoys learning, sharing knowledge, and teaching others. Jayme enjoys meeting with different members of the community that share the passion of health.

Thanks for all of your hard work to improve the health of your community, Jayme!
UMD Health Communication Project
A group of UMD students have created a pre-recorded presentation and workbook to refresh communications efforts across Healthy Northland. View the project materials in this Google drive folder. They are looking for feedback as well. If you would like, complete this evaluation form by Friday, April 16th.

Each semester, students from various courses in the UMD Public Health program get to display their projects at the student showcase.
Check out this semester's virtual showcase on Facebook.

Thank you to these students for all their hard work!
Introducing Resourceful!

Essentia and several other organizations have teamed up to bring us Resourceful! Type in your zip code to be connected to services. Check it out here.

There are also free trainings available to learn how to get the most out of this amazing resource. Register by clicking here.
Active Living
Walk! Bike! Fun! 
Walk! Bike! Fun! is a three part educator training. Click here to enroll in the training.
  • Part One: self paced, online course (available to start now)
  • Part Two: live Zoom training (early April)
  • Part Three: in-person bike training (end of April/early May)
Bus Bike Walk 2021
Bus Bike Walk is a month-long series of community events that celebrate, educate and encourage accessible people-powered modes for getting around town.  Zeitgeist in Duluth is heading up this month-long effort in May 2021.  Click here for more information.

May 5th: National Bike to School Day

Safe Routes to School Demonstration Project Technical Assistance  Safe Routes to School Academy
(Rolling Application)

ARDC Automated Trail Counter Check-out
(Available Upon Request)
Commercial Tobacco-Free Living
NE MN Tobacco Workgroup
Interested in joining? Contact Taylour Blakeman ( to get more information on joining monthly meetings!

Other Resources:
Healthy Eating
Gardening Season 
Check out the Community Gardens page on the Healthy Northland website. Please send any additions to Michaela (

Northland Food Network
The Northland Food Network supports regional food production, access, and education to improve the health and resiliency of the Northland’s people, economy, and environment. Check out the latest newsletter here and subscribe. Upcoming events and resources are also shared on the Northland Food Network Facebook page. Click here to join.

Community Food Project Survey
Share with others as well as your experience! Link to survey:
The survey is open until Friday, April 16th.
Save the dates!
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Healthy Northland
404 W Superior St, Duluth, MN
Suite 220
Duluth, MN 55802

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