Brighter Bites is kicking off its programs in the Washington, D.C., area with a $40,000 donation from Amerigroup to address rising levels of food insecurity from the COVID-19 pandemic. ( Courtesy Brighter Bites )

Brighter Bites started its programs in the Washington, D.C., area in September with a $40,000 boost from Amerigroup Maryland.

The health insurance provider’s donation will address food insecurity in Prince George’s County, Md., a problem that was already massive before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a news release from Brighter Bites.

The organization will use the donation to support ongoing community food distribution efforts, which give more than 9,000 families 20-25 pounds of fresh produce a week. Brighter Bites will also expand its school-based programming in the fall, according to the release.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has cast a glaring light on how those living in economically disadvantaged communities without reliable access to fresh, healthy food are bearing the heaviest burden of COVID-19 infections,” Melanie Button, northeast regional director of Brighter Bites Melanie Button.

Brighter Bites is distributing 9,050 boxes of produce a week to more than 20 schools in the area, as well as churches and community centers, but demand has risen more than 500% since the beginning of March, according to the release. The organization also continues the education segment of its mission, providing printed and digital nutrition information to promote long-term behavior changes.

“We know that the food access gap for low-income Maryland residents has widened during the pandemic and our goal in partnering with Brighter Bites is to ensure that residents can obtain the food and resources they need to help them during this health crisis,” Vince Ancona, Amerigroup Maryland Medicaid plan president, said in the release.

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