Brighter Bites is a new program meant to create behavioral changes through education and access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Its founder Lisa Helfman, a mom of two young boys, found that having more fresh produce at home led her kids to make healthier choices. She has built a team to apply that same principle to Houston’s underserved populations.
As an AmeriCorps VISTA member, I am responsible for taking Lisa’s idea and putting it into action. With a small team located at the Houston Food Bank (the largest food bank in the country) we serve 2,000 students on a weekly basis for eight weeks in the fall and eight weeks in the spring. Brighter Bites supercharges the food bank’s own efforts to distribute more produce to combat hunger as well as obesity.
Every week, we aim to give students a variety of items to expand their awareness of fruits and veggies. They are also taught about health and nutrition through weekly CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Children’s Health) lessons at school. Parents are given a manual as well in the beginning of each eight-week cycle. And families receive recipes and food samples.
Each of the schools and YMCAs we go into have 90 percent or more of their students on free or reduced lunch. They are also located in food deserts. Brighter Bites began in 2012 and served 100 students per week. In our second year, we have expanded to 2,000 students per week. Next school year we intend to double here in Houston as well as move to Dallas by working with the North Texas Food Bank.
As an AmeriCorps VISTA member, I am so excited to be a part of a program that collaborates with a great group of parents and students to work together to combat hunger. As a health enthusiast and foodie, I couldn’t think of a more rewarding program to help develop.
The Corporation for National and Community Service is celebrating the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps and highlighting the theme of healthy futures during the month of March. For more information about the 20th anniversary, please visit the AmeriCorps 20th Anniversary Resource Center.