An estimated 14,000 schoolchildren in the Salt Lake City area are “food insufficient,” meaning they may not know where their next meal is coming from. Usana Kids Eat is a new locally-based program that is seeking to fill this insufficiency for local Utah children, by partnering with the public school system.
The USANA Foundation is a global health and nutrition company headquartered in Utah. The company launched its local branch, Usana Kids Eat, in Salt Lake City in December of 2019. The program has now delivered thousands of backpacks — loaded with food and nutritional items — to at-risk children at more than 65 schools in the Wasatch Valley.
Recognizing the work that teachers have done to continue educating children through the COVID-19 pandemic, Usana Kids Eat also launched a teacher-support program in February 2021. The program loaded “teacher relief” bags which were filled with, “Anything to help relieve occasional stress,” according to Michelle Benedict, Development Manager at Usana Kids Eat.
The teacher relief bags contain resistance bands, stress balls, chocolate, essential oils, sparkling water, Usana nutritional products and other gifts. About 1,500 of the teacher relief bags will be filled by Usana employees in February and then distributed to teachers across the valley.
By partnering directly with schools in Utah, Usana Kids Eat is able to target its relief efforts directly to children dealing with food insufficiency at home. Teachers are on the front lines and working directly with children, so the relief is discreetly targeted to families in which parents may be struggling to put food on the table, especially during the pandemic and with the uncertainty in the economy.
Every bag packed by Usana Kids Eat is filled with nutritional food choices that children will enjoy. Contents include non-perishable items such as oatmeal, food bars, vitamin C-rich fruit cups and applesauce, peanut butter, dry pasta and more. The bags are packed to ensure maximum nutrition, and so that even young children are able to easily wear the backpack home.
The Usana Foundation says the program has delivered nearly 100,000 backpacks to homes since its inception, which amounts to nearly 700,000 meals delivered to struggling homes. The foundation adds that a $25 donation provides approximately 20 meals for a child facing hunger in Utah.
“These kids are under a lot of stress. There’s a unique kind of stress that comes with being hungry,” says Buchanan. “They’ve got that to deal with that and then they have their own challenges on top of it. Something that we hear over and over and that we see over and over is that these kids are really tough. These kids are resilient. And they keep plugging away, and they work hard.”
Thanks to community support and partnering with other local organizations, Usana Kids Eat now delivers an estimated 5,600 food bags to homes in need each week. Buchanan says the best way that interested people can contribute to the program is through direct donations.
“When they receive our bags they’re so excited to get them. And I don’t think it’s just because there’s food inside, but I think it’s because it’s a showing of support. These kids know that someone’s got their back, that we’re thinking of them, that we’re rooting for them.”
While the Kids Eat program is locally targeted in Utah, Usana’s global program focuses on scientific research to develop nutritional supplements that create advanced supplements to help maintain healthy cellular nutrition. The company’s focus is on supplements that contribute to a healthy lifestyle.
For example, Vitamin D is one of the world’s leading nutritional deficiencies, despite being incredibly abundant in the form of sunlight. One of the products Usana provides is a straight Vitamin D supplement, or customers can purchase Magnecal D™ to supplement their diet for vitamin D, magnesium and calcium for skeletal support.
To date, Usana researchers have developed an exhaustive list of supplements that are designed to help people feel better by giving a nutritional boost to their everyday diet. Usana’s research focuses on the following areas for nutritional supplementation:
- Cardiovascular system: Heart, blood vessels, circulatory system
- Cellular function: The fundamental molecules of life contribute to healthy systems throughout the body
- Nervous system: The nerves send signals and messages throughout the body
- Skeletal system: Healthy cartilage and bone structures support the entire body
- Endocrine system: Balance of hormone production and chemical messengers
- Digestion/detox: Optimizing digestive health and helping the body detoxify
- Mother/child: Nutrition to support a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby
Usana’s global efforts also deliver on direct food delivery, as well as doing gardening and clean water projects in developing countries.
While USANA employs more than 60 scientists and researchers in its nutritional laboratories, Buchanan says the Usana Kids Eat program can always use more local help. Community members are welcome to volunteer with the food program. Corporate sponsors and monthly donations are welcome as well, which can be provided directly through the Usana Kids Eat website.
“We feel like these bags are just fuel to help keep [local kids] going and handle the challenges that they’re under,” says Buchanan.