With children and families facing unprecedented challenges due to the stress of the pandemic, Cigna Foundation is teaming up with nonprofits across the country to ensure underserved students and families have access to healthy food and mental health support in schools.
“Now, more than ever, it is critical to ensure that kids in every community have what they need to enjoy the healthiest, happiest school year possible. The Cigna Foundation is committed to doing our part to give kids and their families the healthy foods and mental health support that will set them up for a successful year,” said Susan Stith, executive director, Cigna Foundation. “We are grateful to be partnering with dozens of committed nonprofits and educators from schools around the country. Together, we can make a bigger impact for those who need our support most.”
Since its launch in 2019, the Cigna Foundation’s Healthier Kids For Our Future program has awarded over $14 million in grants. As this school year begins, the Foundation has earmarked $2.2 million of these funds to 16 schools with large populations of low-income students to address the unique needs of their students. The programs, in partnership with local nonprofits and community organizations, aim to:
- Eliminate food insecurity by stocking in-school food pantries or offering weekend food kits.
- Encourage mindfulness and support emotional well-being by equipping educators with guidance on how to integrate mindfulness into their classrooms.
- Empower youth with programs to teach resiliency through gardening or creative arts and funding trauma-informed therapists and teen suicide prevention education.
- Reduce loneliness and depression by better preparing K-8 educators to increase inclusion and sense of community, and promote student social-emotional learning.
The Cigna Foundation’s work has become more urgent as many families are facing hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Feeding America, more than 42 million people may experience food insecurity this year, including a potential 13 million children. Studies also find that many children and adolescents experienced increases in depressive and anxiety symptoms during the pandemic, stemming from social isolation, family financial difficulties and school disruptions.