BLOOMFIELD, Conn., June 03, 2014 - Every Friday, 20 million children across the U.S. leave school uncertain if there will be a meal for them at home over the weekend. To help nourish children nationwide, the Cigna Foundation today announced that Blessings in a Backpack is the new recipient of a $100,000 World of Difference grant for its program to feed schoolchildren on weekends.
"By working with Blessings in a Backpack, Cigna can fill the most basic need for children - food - a need that is fundamental to children's ability to thrive and to grow up to be healthy and well," said David Figliuzzi, executive director of the Cigna Foundation.
The Cigna Foundation established the new World of Difference grants this year to work with nonprofits that are improving children's wellness, senior care, women's health and health equity - which represent the four social priorities for Cigna's corporate responsibility platform known as Cigna Connects. Grant recipients are chosen according to Cigna's mission and opportunities to work with Cigna toward achieving meaningful change with measurable impact on health and well-being.
Blessings in a Backpack provides elementary schoolchildren who are enrolled in the federal Free and Reduced Price Meal Program with a backpack of food to take home for 38 weekends during the school year. Backpack food includes easy-to-prepare, ready-to-eat foods like granola bars, juice boxes, raisins and oatmeal.
"The consequences of hunger are much more than a growling stomach," said Brooke Wiseman, Blessings in a Backpack's chief executive officer. "Poor nutrition can result in a weaker immune system, increased hospitalization, lower IQ, shorter attention spans, and lower academic achievement. Children are fed during the school week by federal government programs, but we want to make sure they're getting nutritious meals over the weekend, too."
Founded at two schools in Louisville, Kentucky, Blessings in a Backpack has grown to a national organization serving more than 65,000 school children at 634 schools in 45 U.S. states and Washington D.C. At these schools, community volunteers - with support from Blessings in a Backpack's national office - secure food, fill and distribute backpacks. As part of Cigna's commitment to Blessings in a Backpack, Cigna employee teams will volunteer at schools to help stuff backpacks with food.
Childhood hunger is a national problem with children in every zip code facing food insecurity. Blessings in a Backpack's structure was developed to be easily and quickly replicated to help children receive weekend nutrition as quickly as possible. The program has been extremely successful: Blessings in a Backpack has experienced 700 percent growth since its incorporation in 2008.
"Our grant to Blessings in a Backpack brings us a step closer to creating a country where no child is hungry and all children are ready to learn, grow and pursue their dreams," Figliuzzi said.
About the Cigna Foundation
The Cigna Foundation, founded in 1962, is a private foundation funded by contributions from Cigna Corporation (NYSE: CI) 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 (NYSE: CI) 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 more than 80 million customer relationships throughout the world. To learn more about Cigna®, including links to follow us on Facebook or Twitter, visit www.cigna.com.
About Blessings in a Backpack
Blessings in a Backpack is a results-oriented program. This unique program 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. $80 feeds one American school child in our program for an entire 38-week school year. Blessings in a Backpack is currently feeding over 65,000 children in 634 schools across 45 U.S. states and three countries (see all at blessingsinabackpack.org/programlocations). We are Feeding the Future of America® - one school at a time.