Have you ever wondered how to get your kids to eat their veggies or to try new things? What about if you couldn’t afford to buy your kids fresh vegetables and fruits? What would you do then? This isn’t an issue that many of us ponder over, but Lisa Helfman not only pondered the question, she answered it in a big way and is not only bringing brighter smiles to many kids who didn’t have access to fresh fruits and veggies before, she is bringing Brighter Bites to them as well.
Lisa Helfman has always been interested in fresh fruits and veggies, which is why she joined a food co-op that she found in a magazine. What she really found out was that the eating habits of her children started to change when they had access to fresh from the farm produce. They stopped asking for the cookies as a snack and started to ask for cut up carrots and apples. That’s when it occurred to Lisa that if it was that easy to change the habits of her kids, why couldn’t the same concept work for all kids.
Lisa sat down with her husband and discussed how to bring a food co-op to schools, so that children could have access to these fruits and vegetables too. The first step was to speak with a friend, Mike Feinberg, who is a Co-Founder of KIPP Charter Schools. He loved the idea and told her that if she had the food, he would give her the kids. The next step was to find the food. Lisa approached Brian Greene, the CEO at the Houston Food Bank, who offered to supply all the fresh produce and a brighter idea was born.
Brighter Bites started with providing 125 kids 50 servings of fruits and vegetables a week. That is about 30 pounds of fresh produce in each bag, which is enough for 2 servings a day for a family of four. But, that’s not all Brighter Bites did. Lisa teamed up with Shreela Sharma, a Doctor who had been doing extensive research on nutrition, and they both agreed it was not just about food access, but also food literacy. Both Lisa and Shreela realized the trick was to make the educational piece fun and informative, so the kids would want to not only try the produce they were getting as well as continue to eat it, but an educational component that would convince the parents to want to eat it and cook it as well. Brighter Bites was going to change the fabric of the house holds that the food was going home to.
Brighter Bites now trains the teachers in the classrooms on nutritional education, so they can incorporate the importance of eating fresh produce into their lesson plans weekly. The teachers are given bags of food with the same materials as the students, which include recipes and books to help them understand and prepare the food and incorporate it into their everyday life and show them how easy it is. Most of these families don’t have access to these fresh vegetables and fruit and many of them have never even seen some of what comes in the bag, so it’s a learning experience for all.
Brighter Bites distributed food in 35 schools in Houston during the 2014/2015 program, which is divided into three eight-week seasons that occur during the Fall, Spring and Summer. They can also be found in Dallas and are starting a program in Austin.
- How many bags has Brighter Bites distributed so far? Around 35,000 EACH semester and counting.
- How much does it cost the kids? NOTHING!
- What do they get? 2 bags of 50 plus servings of nutritional and fresh produce that will serve a family of four two servings of fruits and vegetables a day for a week. PLUS educational resources ranging from simple recipes to clever techniques for improving their health.
- What do the bags contain? A healthy mix of fruits and vegetables that vary with what’s in season and it’s always fresh.
- Where do the kids get the food? In their classrooms to take home with them!!
- Who helps put all this together? Wonderful volunteers and food banks!
The proof is in the research and it has shown that since Brighter Bites has started their program, 98% of families they are serving are eating more fruit and vegetables and more importantly that 74% of these families are continuing to maintain these eating habits on their own. J-Vibe Online Magazine is all about bringing you companies and people who create change, and there is no doubt that Brighter Bites is bringing brighter smiles to these kids and families and not only creating change, but building bridges between food and health and showing that #foodmatters.