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Feb 26, 2020
Helping Kids Grow, One Healthy Meal at a Time

Food is a basic human need. Yet, for 1 in 7 children in the United States, they may not know where their next meal might come from.And when children are suffering from hunger, they are more likely to repeat a grade in elementary school, experience developmental impairments in areas like language and motor skills, and have more social and behavioral problems.1  

“Giving a child a healthy meal does far more than provide them with essential nutrition today,” said Susan Stith, vice president of diversity, inclusion, civic affairs and the Cigna Foundation. “It provides them with a sense of security, and supports their future health, well-being and development, which is core to our Healthier Kids For Our Future® initiative.”

In 2019, the Cigna Foundation announced $25 million in grants over five years to improve the health and well-being of children. Part of that program includes $5 million of available grant funding for nonprofits that are working to reduce food insecurity in their local communities.

Projects across the country have launched or expanded because of that funding, including:

Brighter Bites: Across six communities, the organization provides free fresh produce in underserved communities around the United States with the goal of changing behavior among children and their families to prevent obesity and achieve long-term health, all while making the experience fun for families. This school year, Brighter Bites has enrolled nearly 105,000 people into the program, and in the 2020-2021 school year there will be an anticipated 141,300 program participants.

Feeding Children Everywhere: Feeding Children Everywhere’s Full Cart program provides underserved families nationwide with a box of groceries delivered directly to their homes, at no cost. The grocery box includes meal kits, common grocery items, snack foods, and even fresh produce.

LeMoyne Community Center: The center’s Nutrafit program provides at-risk children and teenagers healthy snacks and meals. Along with the food itself, the program includes education on nutrition and food preparation as part of a holistic approach aimed at helping recipients by first making sure they’re going through school and other activities of the day with good, nutritious food in their stomachs.

The Little Bit Foundation and the St. Louis Area Foodbank: Two in-school "Shop & Grow" markets provide free fresh, frozen and shelf-stable food to students and their families. Unlike most food pantries, these markets have refrigerators and freezers that provide meat, eggs, milk, cheese, and other perishable foods, along with staples such as bread, whole-wheat pasta, and canned goods. Markets are open twice a week, and school personnel also can open them at other times to feed children who are hungry.

WE Charity: WE Charity created service-learning workshops as part of four events that were organized to commemorate Cigna’s support for World Children’s Day. The workshops guided elementary and middle school students through the action-planning process of organizing and executing their own food drive. In addition, the kids gained a better understanding of the root causes associated with hunger.

Also on World Children’s Day, Feeding Children Everywhere and Cigna teamed up with 1,600 students at seven elementary and middle schools to pack over 196,000 meals for underserved families. Established by the United Nations in 1954, this is an annual observance meant to promote, advocate, and celebrate children’s rights internationally.

“This work is just the start of our five year initiative,” said Stith. “Looking ahead, we will continue to focus on helping children across the globe thrive. This means tackling the challenges affecting their health today so all of our children can grow into healthier adults tomorrow.”

In January, it was announced that the Cigna Foundation is also committing $3 million over three years to support mental well-being in schools, as part of our broader $25 million Healthier Kids For Our Future® initiative.

For more information on Healthier Kids For Our Future, click here.