For many children who receive free and reduced meals at school, summer – which can be an exciting time – can also mean hunger.
To address this need and support wellness among city youth, the City of Memphis created the program F.U.N. (Fitness, Unity, Nutrition) as part of the USDA Summer Food Service Program. The initiative is locally supported by over $125,000 in funding from Cigna and Cigna Foundation.
"Hunger does not take a break, and just as learning does not end with the dismissal of school, neither does a child's need for nutrition," said Mayor A C Wharton, Jr. "With summer right around the corner, it's time to think about keeping Memphis children eating healthy during these months."
The program begins Monday (June 3) and ends Aug. 2. It will run Monday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Available at 23 park sites throughout the city, the program promises to deliver F.U.N. for area youth. The idea is to not only provide a free healthy meal for youth 17 and under, but sites will provide programming structured around healthy lifestyles choices, community engagement, leadership development, character building, and violence reduction strategies.
Summer food service programs throughout the city are extremely underutilized.
"The reason noted for underutilization is that many organizations are unaware of programs of this nature," said Toni Holmon-Turner, Public Affairs Manager – Division of Parks and Neighborhoods.
"The city reached out to community organizations within its data base and provided them with information on how they could become a summer feeding site to help serve their community. And when we are referencing other food service programs we are referring to churches and organization that service as feeding sites."
During the summer months, many youth are not involved in structured summer camps or community/church affiliated organizations and are among those who receive free and reduced lunch during the school year.
"These youth are often likely to be food deprived," said Holmon-Turner. "Therefore, the Memphis Summer Food Service Program is an attempt to get meaningful nutritious food to these youth, while also providing fitness, wellness and positive life messages."
Holmon-Turner said the City is fortunate to have Cigna's contribution and partnership to bring the program to the children who need it most.
"Cigna's mission is to improve the health, well-being and sense of security of the people and communities we serve," said Mary Tate-Smith, Cigna Vice President in Memphis.
"As a partner in the Summer Food Service Program, our goal is to help provide good nutrition, promote healthy habits that can last a lifetime and to help Memphis children reach their full potential."
Tate-Smith said wellness is a key focus area of Cigna's corporate responsibility platform, Cigna Connects, through which Cigna brings together "resources, experts and stakeholders to create lasting improvements in health."
Other partners include the U. S. Department of Agriculture, Building Futures, and Urban Youth Initiative.
(For more information, visit www.cityofmemphis.org or call 211.)
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