Episode 181: Lisa Helfman

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Episode 181 Brighter Bites Banner Image

Episode 181 Lisa Helfman Quote

At baseline, low-income families are eating so little produce, they’re ignoring it at the grocery store because they’re intimidated by it. Parents fear spending money on food that might spoil, because they are unaware of how to properly prepare it. Brighter Bites is not only exposing these families to healthy food for free, but assisting them with preparation so they can then apply it to their normal shopping and meal experience.

Early in her career, Lisa worked mostly helping non-profit organizations and government entities in public finance. From there, she got a good vantage point of the business of non-profit, particularly in schools. She went on to work for Texas Children’s Hospital which then gave her a larger view of the entire healthcare system. She noticed most of the campaigns were built around treating illness, instead of preventing them.

Lisa was already participating in a co-op in her own home which gave her family access to fresh and local produce. It was then that she noticed a dramatic changes in the eating habits of her children, as they were regularly exposed to fresh, and new, produce. After beginning to volunteer with underserved communities, she wanted to be able to give children the same access, and came up with the plan of Brighter Bites.

Episode 181 Lisa Helfman Quote

While still under Texas Children’s Hospital, Lisa began working on Brighter Bites as a source of fresh produce to school children. Having already built a relationship with KIPP – one of the largest charter schools across the country – they were the first school that agreed to participate in the fall of 2012.

Lisa established the three pillars Brighter Bites continues to run off of: produce distribution, nutrition education, and fun food experience.

Pre-coronavirus, Brighter Bites would have pallets of produce delivered to schools with parents and volunteers bagging and handing them out to kids. Each would be sent home with two fresh bags of produce containing 50 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables a week for 16 weeks. Now, the collections have turned into boxes that are pre-packed at a produce distributor before being given.

Brighter Bites also trains teachers in nutrition education to then teach their students in the classroom. Parents receive nutrition tip sheets, handbooks, and recipes which are now also available online or on their mobile app.

To show parents how they can use the produce they’re being given, while distributing produce, the Brighter Bites program gives parents samples of what is in their bag. The goal being to demystify produce and show them it can taste good.

“If you don’t teach people how to use the product they’re not going to buy it, they’re not going to eat it. You really have to put the education component with the access.” – Lisa Helfman (19:30 – 19:44)

Lisa points out that Brighter Bites not only serves to help the children at the schools they’re in, but their entire families. Data shows that two years after being in the Brighter Bites program, families are eating 19 more servings of produce a week.

This fall, Brighter Bites will be in 138 schools, delivering 10 million pounds of produce to 34,000 families.

How to get involved

  • Join The Produce Moms Group on Facebook and continue the discussion every week!
  • Reach out to us – we’d love to hear more about where you are in life and business! Find out more here.

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About Lori

Lori Taylor is the Founder & CEO of The Produce Moms. For ten years she sold fresh produce to over 300 grocery stores throughout the United States, and today she is fully focused on working with the produce supply chain, media, and government to increase fresh produce access & consumption in the US and around the globe. Connect with Lori on LinkedIn.

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