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Oct 20, 2023
Cigna Healthcare’s focus on nutrition and food access to boost population health

Quick Take

  • More than 44 million Americans live in food-insecure households
  • Proper nutrition and food security are crucial for maintaining health and vitality
  • Cigna Healthcare works with national and local service organizations to promote healthy eating and improve food access

Eating a variety of fresh and nutritious foods is essential for a healthy lifestyle, yet more than 44 million people, including more than 7 million children, live in food-insecure households, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Lack of access to affordable fruits, vegetables, and other healthful foods puts people at increased risk for a variety of health issues, including higher rates of chronic diseases among adults and increased likelihood of illness and developmental problems among children. Unhealthy diets are linked to nearly 20% of all U.S. health care costs. And those managing a complex condition like cancer, multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis need simple and convenient ways to prepare healthy meals to feed their wellness journey.

At Cigna Healthcare, we recognize that proper nutrition and food security are crucial for maintaining health and vitality. That’s why we work with national and local service organizations to promote healthy eating and enable access to healthful foods. Here are some examples of how Cigna Healthcare is addressing food insecurity to make a difference in the health and lives of the customers and communities we serve.

Nurturing our future generation

Through the Healthier Kids For Our Future initiative, The Cigna Group Foundation  has awarded $24.5 million in grants to support children’s nutrition and mental health. The most frequent uses of these grants include food distribution to school food pantries and markets, offering community classes focused on nutrition, cooking and gardening, and nutrition screening and referrals. By working with community organizations and stakeholders to provide children and their families with the support and education they need, the initiative has improved the lives of more than 280,000 children, families, and educators. 

We also promote proper nutrition for children through community outreach. In Glendale, California, for example, Cigna Healthcare donated $5,000 to Benjamin Franklin Elementary School to build a learning garden, which teaches students how to grow, harvest, and prepare healthy foods. In addition to encouraging sustainable and healthy eating, the garden provides fresh produce to the community.

Improving food access for older Americans

We recently invested $1 million in national and community-based organizations that are dedicated to helping older Americans address food insecurity. Fifty-six programs across 12 states, including local Meals on Wheels chapters, food banks, senior- and veteran-focused coalitions and centers, received funding to support food- and nutrition-based programs such as food pantries, mobile food deliveries, and nutritional meal boxes. Collectively, the funds are expected to provide more than 3 million meals to people in need.

Supporting the sharing of surplus

Cigna Healthcare is the first health benefits provider to exclusively sponsor The Farmlink Project, a nonprofit organization that connects farms with surplus fresh produce to community food banks across the United States. This connection helps make nutritious food that would otherwise go to waste become more accessible to those in need. The sponsorship, which is part of the $1 million investment mentioned above, is expected to increase access to 1.88 million pounds of fresh produce as well as save 21 million gallons of water and prevent 2.89 tons of CO2e emissions through responsible food distribution, supporting better health and positively impacting the environment.

Filling prescriptions for food security

We also sponsored Harris Health’s Food Farmacy program that supports people living with a chronic disease, such as type 2 diabetes, who are also food insecure. Harris Health currently offers a Food Farmacy “mini-store” – which stocks an array of nutritious fruits, vegetables, canned foods and meats – within three of its health care facilities.

Our $500,000 sponsorship will fund refrigerated food lockers that will enable Harris Health to expand their Food Farmacy services in other facilities that lack the space for a full mini-store. This expansion is expected to be completed by late 2024 or early 2025 and enable the program to increase the number of people it serves by an estimated 160 patients a month.

Investing in nutrition for our customers taking specialty medications

In 2022, Cigna Healthcare launched the Cigna Pathwell solution suite, connecting customers with quality care providers to help improve health outcomes and lower costs for customers, their families, and their employers. An initial focus of Cigna Pathwell is to support patients with complex or rare conditions who take specialty medications through our Cigna Pathwell Specialty solution.

When people are being treated with specialty medications, proper nutrition is vital to maintaining their energy levels and lowering their risk of infection so they can heal and recover faster. Cigna Healthcare has partnered with meal kit provider HelloFresh on a pilot program to offer discounted nutritional meals for customers enrolled in Cigna Pathwell Specialty to support their healthy diet and help them take care of their daily needs.

“Consistent access to healthy food is a key component of overall well-being and quality of life,” says Heather Dlugolenski, U.S. Commercial Strategy Officer at Cigna Healthcare. “We are always exploring new avenues and partnerships to help people overcome food insecurity and address other social needs so they can achieve the best health and vitality possible.”

Cigna is Committed to Health Equity

For more than a decade, Cigna has promoted the identification of health disparities and influenced the development of solutions that result in more equitable health among our customers, our workforce, and in the community.

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