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USANA Kids Eat Reduces Food-Related Stress for Local Kids

 

By Ronen Shnidman

One in five children don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Hunger is a problem within American and USANA is working to make a difference. Through their foundation, USANA works to offer assistance to food-insecure families within Utah.

Over 99,900 backpacks have now been delivered to kids with over 699,755 meals provided by USANA. The USANA Kids Eat program is geared to help local at-risk youth find support through food programs and safe food. The program is based on the belief that no child should ever go hungry.

USANA Kids Eat Development Manager Michelle Benedict says, “These kids are under a lot of stress. There is a unique type of stress that comes with being hungry.”

Studies have shown that children facing food insufficiency face a higher prevalence of poor health conditions, including headaches, stomachaches, colds and chronic illness. Hungry kids have difficulty focusing in school, and hunger-related stress can harm brain development. Research shows hunger is linked to depression and anxiety in children, resulting in a high risk of depressive disorders and self-harming behavior in adolescents.

Facing hunger during the early years of development is especially harmful.

Growth may be stunted due to a lack of supporting nutrition. Children may struggle to keep up with their peers in processing information, athletic achievement and academic advancement.

USANA is working to change that, starting with the local neighborhoods.

The program was developed in 2019 when the USANA Foundation acquired KidsEat! to create USANA Kids Eat.

“We provide food every weekend to kids who are food insufficient at home,” says Benedict. “The mechanism we use to pass those bags out is through the schools. It’s the teachers and counselors who are passing out our bags.” This is a key part of the program because most food insecurity is hidden.

The stigma that goes with food insecurity leads to families hiding their needs. Children often feel ashamed or isolated when they experience a lack of food. The teachers and counselors who have a relationship with the kids they serve are best able to get the bags where they are needed.

“When they receive our bags they get so excited,” says Benedict. “And, I don’t think it’s just because there is food inside. I think they are excited because it’s a show of support. They know we have their back and we are rooting for them. These bags are just fuel to help keep them going and handle the challenges they are facing. “

USANA works with over 41 schools and organizations to make a difference in these small lives.

“Through the past year we’ve really seen what’s been going on in the schools and how big their challenges are with COVID,” says Benedict. Projected food insecurity, according to Feeding America, is between 11-17% within Utah. The report titled The Impact of the Coronavirus on Food Insecurity in 2020 notes:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a public health and economic crisis, the effects of which are widespread. The repercussions include added hardship for populations already facing challenges making ends meet, as well as a significant increase in the number of people experiencing food insecurity.”

The teachers throughout the US are working hard to shore up gaps in education and leap over new hurdles caused by the virus. “We’ve been impressed and amazed at how above and beyond they go to make sure no kids fall through the cracks and that they’re taken care of,” Benedict says about local teachers. “That they’re learning, but also that they are getting these food bags and the support that they need.”

So, Usana didn’t stop with the kids. The company wanted to reach out to the teachers as well. The goal was to help boost the spirits of the hardworking teachers who remain dedicated to the kids who need them. About 1,500 bags were put together by USANA employees for teachers. Each bag was packed with products related to relieving stress—from stress balls to exercise bands and essential oils.

USANA wants the public to join in and participate in the movement. Donations are always appreciated to help keep this organization growing. USANA Kids Eat also accepts sponsorships and volunteers to help spread the support to local at-risk kids.

“These kids are really tough,” Benedict says. “They are resilient. They keep working.”

About USANA

USANA is a global health and nutritional company recognized for a range of products to support and maintain healthy lifestyles. USANA develops and manufactures high-quality, science-based nutritional supplements, foods and personal care products. The company is dedicated to excellence, integrity, health and supporting the community. With USANA Kids Eat, the company is able to provide safe food to children facing hunger in Utah.

USANA Kids Eat establishes a framework to combat hunger within the community. The foundation challenges the community to join in, helping neighbors find stability and at-risk children reach their full potential. Every meal goes to a struggling family to provide the nutrition kids need for proper development and achievement in school.

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