Starting March 6, 200 students at Thew Elementary in Tempe will receive backpacks filled with healthy food each weekend throughout the school year, made possible through a Cigna Foundation grant to Blessings in a Backpack. The national child hunger relief nonprofit will implement a three-year program at the school. To kick off the program, sponsored by Cigna, all 670 Thew Elementary students will receive backpacks during a special event tomorrow morning.
Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell will start the program with opening remarks. Arizona Cardinals center and offensive captain Lyle Sendlein will encourage students to adopt healthy habits and stay in school. Students will also get a visit from the Cardinals mascot Big Red, who will engage the kids in fitness-related activities. Representatives from Thew, Cigna and Blessings will also attend.
“Our backpacks give children the food they need during those times when free or reduced-priced school lunches are not available, such as on weekends,” said Kevin Beam, chief operating officer for Blessings in a Backpack. “Working with the Cigna Foundation and Cigna will help bring national attention to the Blessings mission of feeding hungry children. Together, we can fight to end childhood hunger.”
“The Cigna Foundation is committed to building a future where every child has the opportunity to achieve a healthier, more secure life,” said David Figliuzzi, executive director of the Cigna Foundation. “Hunger has a significant impact on a child’s physical, mental and academic well-being. By working together with Blessings, we can ensure students come to school each day healthy, engaged and ready to learn.”
“Nearly 30 percent of Arizona’s children face hunger, which is higher than the national average,” said Edward Kim, president and general manager for Cigna in Arizona. “As a member of the community and as a provider of care through Cigna Medical Group, this program aligns with our focus on helping kids and families stay healthy.”
At the event, Cigna dental mascot Mikey Molar will lead a school wide dance-off and teach students about the link between nutrition and good oral health. The kids will receive dental care supplies and oral health information in their backpacks.
Blessings in a Backpack is a results-oriented program designed to feed elementary school children whose families qualify for the federally funded National School Lunch Program and have little or no access to healthy food on the weekends. The program is supported nationally and locally by the Cigna Foundation and Cigna. Child wellness is a key focus of Cigna’s corporate responsibility platform, Cigna Connects. In addition, Rich Stephens, Cigna’s vice president of business development, serves on the Blessings in a Backpack board of directors.
Funding for the food-filled backpacks was provided by the Cigna Foundation. The Cigna Foundation and Cigna have contributed $450,000 to Blessings in a Backpack, including a $100,000 World of Difference grant to expand the program in schools nationwide.
Cigna’s commitment to improving the health and well-being of the Arizona community extends beyond the Blessings in a Backpack program. For nearly 30 years, Cigna and the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department’s Aquatic Section have provided free swim events for kids of all ages through the Cigna Summer Water Safety Program. Additionally, Cigna has raised more than $500,000 for St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance, which will feed nearly 900,000 families throughout Arizona.
Blessings in a Backpack, People Magazine’s Charity of 2012, is a results-oriented program that is designed to feed elementary school children whose families qualify for the federally funded National School Lunch Program and have little or no food on the weekends. Better test scores, improved reading skills, positive behavior, improved health and increased attendance have all been attributed to the success of this program. As little as $100 feeds one American school child in our program for an entire 38-week school year. Blessings in a Backpack is currently feeding over 76,000 children in 44 states, the District of Columbia and 780 schools. “We are Feeding the Future of America® – one school at a time.”
The Cigna Foundation is a private foundation funded by contributions from Cigna Corporation and its subsidiaries. The Cigna Foundation supports organizations sharing its commitment to enhancing the health of individuals and families, and the well-being of their communities, with a special focus on those communities where Cigna employees live and work.
Cigna Corporation is a global health service company dedicated to helping people improve their health, well-being and sense of security. All products and services are provided exclusively by or through operating subsidiaries of Cigna Corporation, including Connecticut General Life Insurance Company, Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, Life Insurance Company of North America and Cigna Life Insurance Company of New York. Such products and services include an integrated suite of health services, such as medical, dental, behavioral health, pharmacy, vision, supplemental benefits, and other related products including group life, accident and disability insurance. Cigna maintains sales capability in 30 countries and jurisdictions, and has approximately 85 million customer relationships throughout the world.