Brighter Bites

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View the BrighterBites.org website

Project Overview

Brighter Bites delivers fresh fruits and vegetables directly into families’ hands, while teaching them how to use and choose a different kind of fast food. We make it fun. We make it free. And we make it happen via a simple, three-part formula:

  1. Bring fresh produce to where kids already are.

  2. Teach kids and families healthy ways to use their food.

  3. Create a fun food experience for everyone involved.

Since its inception in 2012, Brighter Bites has delivered millions of pounds of fresh produce and nutrition education to children and families in multiple cities. 

Current UTHealth School of Public Health Staff:

  • Shreela Sharma, PhD
  • Greg Bounds, MPH
  • Krista Patlovich, MPH

Project Details

Brighter Bites aims to impact eating behavior among predominantly low-income families by introducing them to a routine distribution of fresh produce, along with corresponding education, ultimately helping to curb the childhood obesity epidemic in Houston and Dallas. Brighter Bites is an opportunity to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to children and their families through weekly recyclable bags of 50 servings of produce sent home with families in areas identified as food deserts, combined with nutrition education for children and their families over a 16-week program.

Eight Steps to Brighter Bites

  1. Engage communities 
  2. Select the week's variety
  3. Load up
  4. Bag the produce
  5. Teach brighter choices
  6. Sample & share
  7. Take home the fun
  8. Replicate 

Researchers at the UTHealth School of Public Health conducted a two-year study evaluating the impact of Brighter Bites on 760 students and their families at nine schools in Houston during the 2013-15 school years. Results from this study have been published in a scientific peer-reviewed journal called Preventive Medicine.

Suffice it to say, science finally proves what we’ve suspected all along: Brighter Bites works—and works well.


Study results show that, as compared to participants in the control group (not receiving Brighter Bites), children and parents who did receive Brighter Bites demonstrated:

HEALTHIER HABITS
Significant increase in amount of fruits and vegetables consumed.

LESS ADDED SUGAR
Significant decrease in amount of added sugars consumed among children.

MORE HOME COOKING
Twofold increase in cooking meals from scratch

HEALTHIER SNACKING
Significant increase in serving more fruits and vegetables as snacks.

MORE FAMILY MEALS
Significant increase in eating produce-heavy meals together at home

SMARTER DECISIONS
Twofold increase in using nutrition labels to guide grocery purchases


PRESENTATIONS

Alcazar, L., Sharma, S. (November 2016). Brighter Bites Photovoice: Perspectives from Hispanic participating parents towards the Brighter Bites program. Oral presentation at the American Public Health Association 2016 Annual Meeting in Denver, CO.

Sharma, S., Markham, C., Chow, J., Ranjit, N., Pomeroy, M., & Raber, M. (November 2016). A comparative effectiveness study of Brighter Bites: A food co-op intervention to improve access to fresh F&V and nutrition education among low-income children and families. Oral presentation at the American Public Health Association 2016 Annual Meeting in Denver, CO.

Pomeroy, M. (November 2016). Brighter Bites: Implementing a Food Co-op Concept in Underserved Schools. Oral Presentation at the Southern Obesity Summit in Houston, TX.

Past, Present and Future of SNAP: Evaluating Effectiveness and Outcomes in SNAP-Ed: Hearings before the Committee on Agriculture, House of Representatives, 114th Cong. (June 2016) (Testimony of Shreela Sharma, PhD, RD, LD).

Sharma, S., Markham, C., Chow, J., Pomeroy, M., & Raber M. (October 2015). Efficacy of Brighter Bites: a School-Based Food Co-op Intervention. Poster presentation at The Obesity Society Annual Meeting, Los Angeles, CA.

Sharma, S., Markham, C. Helfman, L., Albus, K., Chuang, R.J., & Pomeroy, M. (May 2014). Feasibility and acceptability of Brighterbites, a program increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables and nutrition education among low-income children and their families. Poster presented at the International Society for Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity Annual Meeting in San Diego, CA.

Albus, K., Sharma, S., Markham, C., Helfman, L., & Pomeroy, M. (May 2014). Process evaluation of Brighter Bites pilot study: A community-academic partnership promoting fruit and vegetable intake among low-income, minority populations. Oral presentation at the International Society for Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity Annual Meeting in San Diego, CA.

Examining the impact of a school-based fruit and vegetable co-op in the Hispanic community through documentary photography

(Alcazar, L., Raber, M., Lopez, K., Markham, C., & Sharma, S.V; Appetite; 2017)

Brighter Sights: Using Photovoice for a process evaluation of a food co-op style nutrition intervention

(Raber M. Lopez KK, Pomeroy M, Mody A, Markham C, Sharma SV; Journal of Health Disparities Research and Practice; 2016)

Evaluating a school-based fruit and vegetable co-op in low-income children: a quasi-experimental study

(Sharma, S. V., Markham, C., Chow, J., Ranjit, N., Pomeroy, M., & Raber, M; Preventive Medicine; 2016)

Sharma: Eliminating hunger and food waste in the U.S. is an achievable goal

In Texas, rates of children consuming fruits and vegetables are among the lowest, while obesity and hunger are among the highest in the U.S. Food insecurity, especially among children, is invisible because of the high intake of unhealthy foods leading to obesity. Can we address food waste and convert it into a public health opportunity? Thumbnail image for Brighter Bites program to be honored as a 2016 Texas Health Champion

Brighter Bites program to be honored as a 2016 Texas Health Champion

While their model for increasing families’ fruit and vegetable consumption may sound simple—free weekly fresh produce distribution + nutrition education + fun food experiences —the secret to Brighter Bites’ success is their understanding of the complexity of our food system and eating habits.

Initiative Provides Free Produce To School Children In Food Deserts

Houston Public Media - March 13th, 2014 - A program brings school children a step closer to a healthful diet.

Red Bluff partners with the Houston Food Bank for Brighter Bites Program

The Pasadena Citizen — October 30, 2014 — Red Bluff Elementary has partnered with the Houston Food Bank for their Brighter Bites program, a non-profit initiative that promotes healthier food options for students.

‘ACE’ program helps local families get nutritious (VIDEO)

ABC 13 HOUSTON – Parents are getting a little help with healthy choices for their kids thanks to a new collaborative effort.

Initiative Provides Free Produce To School Children In Food Deserts

HOUSTON PUBLIC MEDIA – (March 13, 2014) – At Lantrip Elementary School in Houston’s East End, parents are lining up for their two free bags of fresh produce. One of them is Allan Nava, father of a third-grader there. “I got some bell peppers, some salad fixings, fresh fruit, some squash…a lot of great stuff,” he says.
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Feeding with Impact

Feeding with Impact is a strategy to combat obesity and improve health outcomes by combining free produce distribution with evidence-based programs to increase food access and food literacy for low-income Texans

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Brighter Bites: Helping families take CATCH home

This month's CATCH webinar will describe the Brighter Bites model and how it incorporates CATCH to promote healthier environments both at school and at home.

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Brighter Bites: Evolution, Impact, and Expansion

Brighter Bites Co-Founder Dr. Shreela Sharma, Executive Director Samuel Newman, and Senior Program Director Mike Pomeroy as they discuss how Brighter Bites evolved from a small home-grown idea into an evidence-based public health program that impacts tens of thousands of families.