Aug 11, 2023
Healthier Kids For Our Future: Improving the health and vitality of 280K children, families, and educators
school-aged girl holding an orange in a supermarket

Quick Take

  • According to a new report, The Healthier Kids For Our Future initiative has reached 280,000 individuals.
  • Nearly $25 million has been awarded to improve children’s nutrition and mental health.
  • Grantees report improved access, awareness, and knowledge.

Our children are the future, and they need our help today. A sad truth exists in America: More than 9 million children – 1 in 8 – face nutrition insecurity. Nutrition is closely related to physical and mental health. Children who are food-insecure experience higher rates of health conditions and are at high risk for a wide range of social, behavioral, and developmental issues.

Those risks are compounded by a growing mental health crisis. For example, 1 in 5 youths ages 13-18 have, or will have, a serious mental illness. We must tackle the challenges affecting children’s health and vitality today, so they can grow into healthier adults tomorrow.

Enter Healthier Kids For Our Future (HKFOF). Launched in 2019, HKFOF is The Cigna Group Foundation’s signature five-year, $25 million initiative to improve nutrition and improve the mental health and emotional well-being of children. The initiative works directly with communities across the country to provide children and their families with the support they need.

As the initiative heads into its fifth and final year, we’ve partnered with the Brown School Evaluation Center at Washington University in St. Louis to release the 2019-2023 Impact Report, spotlighting HKFOF’s reach and progress made over the past four years. Read on below for some of the report’s highlights and to learn more about HKFOF’s programs, impact, and outcomes.

Bridging gaps for nonprofit organizations, schools, and communities

HKFOF achieves its core goals of improving children’s nutrition and mental health by connecting nonprofit organizations, schools, and communities with the volunteers and resources necessary to make a difference. Through financial grants and partnerships, the initiative has supported 146 grantee organizations to date – a mix of national nonprofit partners that implement programs across the country and local organizations chosen by partner schools.

For example, HKFOF has partnered with local foodbanks like the Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee to ensure families have access to healthy food – establishing school-based food distribution programs across the country. To help teachers and school administrators support the mental well-being of their students, HKFOF partnered nationally with Mindful Schools to provide specialized training for educators in 18 schools across nine U.S. cities. And with the support of multi-year funding, nonprofit organizations like Adolescent Counseling Services, which supports low-income Hispanic and LGBTQ+ youths, have been able to expand their teams to provide consistent, no- or low-cost mental health services.

$24.5 million in grants to support nutrition and mental health for underserved youth

Since 2019, HKFOF has awarded $24.5 million in grants to support children’s nutrition and mental health. Approximately $14 million has been awarded to organizations working to improve children’s nutrition, and $10.5 million has been awarded to organizations addressing children’s loneliness, anxiety, depression, and suicide prevention.

The most common uses for these grants include:

Nutrition security

  • Food distribution or school food pantries and markets
  • Nutrition and cooking classes
  • Gardening
  • Nutrition screening and referrals

Mental health

  • Individual, group, or family therapy
  • Parent education
  • Educator professional development
  • Student support and education
  • Mental health screening and referrals

Programs and initiatives have served over 280,000 individuals

HKFOF serves kids and the adults who care for them – including parents, caregivers, and teachers. The initiative has touched the lives of 280,818 people to date – 173,357 kids and 107,461 adults. Kids ages 5 to 14 were the primary participants in HKFOF-funded programs

High achievement outcomes: Improved access, awareness, and knowledge

Twice a year, the Brown School Evaluation Center asks grantees to report on the outcomes of their HKFOF programs. Grantees reported high overall achievement rates among the communities they serve – with particularly high achievement rates in categories of increased access to resources, increased awareness, gained knowledge, and improved skills. Many grantees also reported marked improvements in physical and mental well-being and nutrition security. 

Beyond the numbers: An opportunity to give back

With many partner schools strategically located near areas with large numbers of The Cigna Group’s employees, HKFOF also provides an opportunity for employees to volunteer and engage directly with their communities.

The Cigna Group’s Joy Adams, Chris Parish, and Dr. Shokea Miller (pictured below) regularly volunteer at their local HKFOF partner school, Northaven Elementary in Memphis, Tennessee. With support from Mid-South Food Bank, they and other volunteers spent two days packing and distributing more than 200 food boxes to local families.

The Cigna Group employees volunteer at Northaven Elementary in Memphis, Tennessee.

“It’s so nice to be able to help the children, families and school and make their lives a little easier,” Adams said after the event.

The Cigna Group’s Michele Berg  shared a similar volunteer experience alongside colleagues at Holdeman Elementary in Tempe, Arizona. The team prepared and distributed carts of food for children during a school pickup drive-through event.

The Cigna Group employees volunteer at Holdeman Elementary in Tempe, Arizona.

“Seeing the smiles on their faces and knowing that we were making a difference was an incredible feeling,” Berg said. “At the end of the food distribution, we were exhausted but also exhilarated. We had worked hard, had fun, and made a positive impact in the lives of these families.”

As HKFOF approaches its fifth and final year, its programs and partnerships continue in full swing. This year, 77 organizations have active grants, including 29 organizations receiving new grants in August. Those grants will run through the 2023-24 school year. Read the full report for more information on HKFOF and its impact from 2019 to 2023.

Healthier Kids For Our Future Impact Report

2019-2023 Impact Report

Read the Healthier Kids For Our Future 2019-2023 Impact Report, developed by the Brown School Evaluation Center at Washington University in St. Louis.

Read the report