The Produce Moms is proud to partner with Brighter Bites, a non-profit that empowers families to take control of their health through increased consumption of fresh fruits and veggies.
Their proven formula of Produce Distribution + Nutrition Education + Fun Food Experience wows us, and we couldn’t love their mission more! Brighter Bites embodies a community of care—making a positive difference in schools, families, and agriculture through increased access to fresh foods and food literacy. Their mantra, “The better we nourish, the brighter we flourish” says it all.
Brighter Bites delivers fresh fruits and vegetables directly to families through school-based programming for 16 weeks throughout the school year and 8 weeks during the summer. An estimated 10% of the U.S. population has poor access to fresh food. Brighter Bites is on a mission to change that, one brown bag full of fresh fruits and veggies at a time.
Since 2012, Brighter Bites has delivered more than 23 million pounds of fresh produce and hundreds of thousands of nutrition education materials to over 275,000 individuals across the United States. All for free!
The First Bite – Brighter Bites History
When founder Lisa Helfman noticed the eating habits of her children drastically change after years of being flooded with new fruit and vegetable introductions (by way of a weekly produce co-op subscription), something sparked. It was evident to her that her kids were growing up healthy as a result of their produce-packed eating habits. Rarely were they down with sickness, and their sweet tooth even started to dwindle over time. Once the linkage between access to fresh foods and overall wellness was clear, Lisa felt inspired to make this same positive change possible for others.
Brighter Bites was born in an effort to replicate positive eating in food insecure neighborhoods which lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Lisa’s vision was to bring a produce co-op distribution service to schools in underserved communities where fresh foods were scarcely available. She knew she needed to include an educational component and a fun experience to make it all work. She collaborated with Dr. Shreela Sharma, an expert in nutrition and epidemiology professor at UTHealth School of Public Health. With 1 in 10 U.S. children now labeled overweight or obese, and a declining life expectancy for younger generations, they both new something had to change and that access to fresh food was part of the solution. Together they launched Brighter Bites in 2012.
You can learn more about Brighter Bites awesomeness in this short video.
Growth – One Bright Bite at a Time
With new CEO Rich Dachman on board, Brighter Bites’ progress continues. Rich comes to Brighter Bites with more than 40 years of experience in the produce industry. Over half of his career was spent with the world’s largest broadline food distributor, Sysco. Last month he retired from his role as Vice President of Produce with Sysco to join the Brighter Bites team. With three years of experience serving on the Brighter Bites Board of Directors, and a resume packed with produce, he fits right in.
Brighter Bites will be in 6 cities and 100 sites this academic year, 2019-2020. Elementary schools in Houston, Dallas, Austin, New York City, Washington DC Metro, and Southwest Florida will benefit from the community of health Brighter Bites brings to areas served. This year Brighter Bites expanded to 5 new sites in New York City including the boroughs of Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan. Replication is an important part of the Brighter Bites model. It is evident that the same need for access to fresh healthy food exists across the U.S.—luckily both the Brighter Bites formula and availability of fresh produce is scalable.
Impact – It’s a Fact
Each family’s behavior is tracked and the results are inspiring. Years of data collected by a research team at UTHealth School of Public Health shows that the Brighter Bites model provides consistent opportunities for children and their families to make better food choices leading to a healthier lifestyle. Children and parents are reporting a significant increase in the amount of fruits and vegetables they consume, while decreasing the amount of sugar children consume on a daily basis. Families are reading nutrition labels more, cooking (from scratch!) more, and eating together more as a result of their participation in the Brighter Bites program—twice as much actually! Most importantly, the impact is lasting. An increased level of fruit and vegetable consumption is being maintained after families stop receiving free produce at the end of the school year, which supports the sustainability of the Brighter Bites model.
Brighter Bites is promoting the benefits and consumption of fresh produce, but their good doesn’t stop there. They realize food is a great equalizer and has the ability to build community. Produce pick-up and fun food events are bringing some parents into their child’s school for the very first time. By exposing families to produce, Brighter Bites is exposing families to their community.
A Collaborative Future
Partnering with Brighter Bites was simply, just meant to be. The Produce Moms founder Lori Taylor feels bite for bite, no food you put in your body is as good for you as fresh produce. Brighter Bites is helping spread that same message by introducing people to the positive powers of produce.
Be on the lookout for podcast collaborations, Facebook Live posts from Brighter Bites facilities, speaking engagements, and fresh recipes like this Butternut Squash Dip from Brighter Bites. Check out our latest podcast with Brighter Bites founder Lisa Helfman here.
How Can You Help?
You can help support Brighter Bites mission in many ways. Check out their website www.brighterbites.org for more information about, donating, volunteering, and partnering. They are currently in need of more produce donations. Help make a difference, help make the world a healthier place!