Houston, TX – Brighter Bites is partnering with produce suppliers throughout the country in conjunction with the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program, a federal initiative developed specifically to distribute free agricultural products such as fresh produce, dairy, and meat, to those in need during the COVID-19 crisis. Through this initiative, Brighter Bites aims to ensure that the 25,000 current Brighter Bites families continue to receive approximately 20-25 pounds of produce just as they did before COVID-19 affected their communities. Brighter Bites has also been giving $25 produce vouchers bi-weekly to Brighter Bites households for fruit and vegetable purchases at local grocery stores to ensure all families have access to fresh produce at this crucial time of need. Brighter Bites is distributing these produce boxes to an additional 25,000 families that live in the same cities where Brighter Bites currently operates.
The USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program, which was established under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, allows the USDA to partner with national, regional, and local produce suppliers whose distribution methods (through restaurants, hotels, other food service businesses) have been greatly impacted by COVID-19. Through the program, the suppliers purchase the unused fruits and vegetables, package it into boxes of mixed produce at their warehouse, and transport it to nonprofits like Brighter Bites to ensure the produce reaches those in need. The USDA reimburses the suppliers for the cost of the produce, labor, and transportation.
In an effort to maintain the Brighter Bites program during the crisis, Brighter Bites developed a new Family Resources page on its website, increased the frequency of its family newsletters, established social media channels in all six cities to increase access to program staff and resources, and enhanced communication with schools. Through these initiatives, Brighter Bites is providing information about local food distributions, mental health helplines, stress coping tips, and more. Brighter Bites is also providing a variety of nutrition education resources ranging from house-made nutrition spotlight videos to CATCH worksheets to PE activities.
Brighter Bites’ USDA produce box distributions began in mid-May.
Below find details about how Brighter Bites is collaborating with produce suppliers to help those in need in each of the organization’s service areas:
Brighter Bites Houston, TX with DiMare Fresh, GoFresh/Hardie’s Fresh Foods
● 20 locations, including schools, churches and other community sites
● 18,000 total boxes distributed weekly
● 19 lbs per box
Brighter Bites Austin, TX with DiMare Fresh
● 9 locations, including schools, parks & rec centers and YMCAs
● 4,500 total boxes distributed weekly
● 19 lbs per box
Brighter Bites Dallas, TX with GoFresh/Hardie’s Fresh Foods
● 16 locations, including schools, YMCAs and other community sites
● 9,000 total boxes distributed weekly
● 18-28 lbs per box
Brighter Bites NYC with City Harvest, Perfect Pact, Tomato Thyme
● 10 locations, including schools
● 5,770 total boxes distributed weekly
● 15-20 lbs per box
Brighter Bites Washington, D.C. with Coastal Sunbelt Produce
● 20 locations, including schools, churches, and other community sites
● 9,050 total boxes distributed weekly
● 24 lbs per box
Brighter Bites, SW Florida with Perfect Pact and Marjon Specialty Foods
● 3 locations, including community sites and YMCAs
● 2,300 total boxes distributed weekly
● 20 lbs per box
“Brighter Bites is incredibly proud to partner with Coastal Sunbelt Produce, DiMare Fresh, Hardie’s Fresh Foods, Perfect Pact, and others as we all work to distribute nutritious food to families experiencing food insecurity during this time,” said Brighter Bites Director of Sourcing Jennifer Boone. “As an organization, we were adamant that school closures would not stop us from continuing to carry out our mission, but we knew that we would need to shift our model. We are honored that produce distributors around the country trusted us to ensure families received their produce boxes from the Farmers to Families program.”
In response to receiving the produce boxes from Brighter Bites and the Greater Riverdale Partnership in Prince George’s County, MD, Pastor Everett Pope of United Baptist Church said “We have been absolutely blessed to receive these generous and kind produce donations. The response from our community has been overwhelming. We are thankful for the partnership forged by Council Member Dannielle Glaros, and for the compassionate work of the Brighter Bites team. We the people are grateful. This is the type of unity needed to survive the times.”
Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, Brighter Bites served over 25,000 families nationwide enrolled in the program across 100 schools, with each family receiving 25 pounds of fresh produce and nutrition education on a weekly basis. Then COVID-19 hit, schools shuttered, and families lost access to this fresh produce they were dependent on for daily nourishment.
“Brighter Bites is so pleased to be a part of this USDA emergency initiative,” said Brighter Bites CEO Rich Dachman. “We look forward to continuing to serve as an integral part of this federal program as we find new ways to identify, package, and deliver nutritious food to those in desperate need across the country.”
About Brighter Bites:
Brighter Bites is a nonprofit that creates communities of health through fresh food with the goal of changing behavior among children and their families to prevent obesity and achieve long-term health. Brighter Bites is an evidence-based, multi-component elementary school, preschool, and summer camp program that utilizes reliable access to fruits and vegetables, nutrition education, and consistent exposure to recipes and messages that feature fresh food. Since 2012, Brighter Bites has provided more than 27 million pounds of produce and millions of nutrition education materials to more than 275,000 individuals (including teachers) in Houston, Dallas, Austin, New York City, the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area, and Southwest Florida. To learn more about Brighter Bites visit www.brighterbites.org.