July 3, 2020 By Michael Dorgan
A local organization that distributes fresh produce to families in need was able to extend its services throughout COVID-19 after receiving a large grant from a Manhattan-based charity.
Brighter Bites typically distributes food to families by delivering it to children at schools. The non-profit educates students about the benefits of eating healthy, fresh food and the students then take the produce home to their families. The food is donated by City Harvest.
Brighter Bites was unable to maintain this delivery method when COVID-19 hit due to schools shutting down and had to come up with an alternative way of getting the food to families.
The organization teamed up with Astoria-based culinary education company Connected Chef to help pack and then deliver the produce to the homes of students living in Jackson Heights, Corona, Woodside, Astoria, and East Elmhurst.
Connected Chef hired people affiliated with the company who had either lost their jobs or were on reduced hours over a two-month period. They also hired vans for deliveries and paid driver delivery fees.
Brighter Bites paid for these costs in May and the $30,000 grant helped foot the costs in June.
Around 2,000 families received weekly deliveries. Each family received two bags of produce, weighing between 18 and 30 pounds in total.
Nearly 300,000 pounds worth of fresh produce was delivered over the two months.
The grant ensured the organization could continue to deliver food once the virus hit, according to Melanie Button, Brighter Bites Regional Program Director said.
“As an organization, we were adamant that school closures would not stop us from continuing to provide produce to our families but we knew that we would need to shift our model,” Button said.
“This Robin Hood grant ensured that we were able to do that…setting off a spectacular, community-based operation,” she said.
The new model also minimized the risk to students and families of contracting COVID-19, Button added.
Food insecurity has been a huge problem for New York City families during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Robin Hood.
At the height of the pandemic, one in three parents were reducing or skipping meals to feed their children, Emary Aronson, Chief Knowledge Officer and Senior Advisor to the CEO at Robin Hood said.
“Two million of our neighbors were at risk of going hungry,” Aronson said.
“Brighter Bites’ initiative quickly got food into the hands of families in the hardest-hit neighborhoods in Queens.”