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United Food Bank Awarded $100K through Cigna Group Foundation

United Food Bank uses grant to support Tempe elementary family pantry program
Staff Reports | Digital Free Press

United Food Bank is taking a $100,000 grant provided by The Cigna Group Foundation’s Healthier Kids For Our Future initiative for a school pantry program at Holdeman Elementary School in Tempe.

The Holdeman Food Pantry is a family school market program developed to support students, their families, and nearby residents through the creation of a neighborhood market that allows them to shop for their needs, Cigna representatives tell the Arizona Digital Free Press.

The pantry is set up on campus and is now fully equipped with coolers, freezers and shelving to provide families with access to fresh food options and non-perishable goods. A staggering 98% of Holdemans’ student population qualifies for the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program.

“Families in the community are struggling to make ends meet as food and gas prices continue to rise,” said the CEO and President of United Food Bank Jason Reed. “We are proud to partner with Holdeman Elementary School to provide family-friendly food items. Thank you to The Cigna Group Foundation for their support in bringing this school program to life.”

During the pandemic, Holdeman staff quickly adapted the program to a drive-through model, providing produce, protein, dairy, and more each month. Now, the market is able to expand its food distribution and be accessible during the summer months.

“I am so proud of the immense positive impact the Holdeman Food Pantry has made for our community,” said Dr. Jeff Shores, the principal of Holdeman Elementary School. “When families visit the pantry, we can have one-on-one conversations about their needs and best discuss how the food pantry can help fulfill those needs. That is when the true impact of the food pantry is revealed.”

The family school market was primarily designed with students in mind. It gives them the opportunity to participate in the operations of the pantry program and help them gain knowledge of fundamental business principles through the guidance of teachers, staff and The Cigna Group Foundation volunteers.

“There is a direct correlation between proper nutrition and a child’s ability to learn and grow,” said Pete Chuchro, the risk and underwriting director of Cigna Arizona. “This program not only has an immediate, positive impact on the students and their families, it puts them on a path to improved health and vitality.”

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