Significant increase in amount of fruits and vegetables consumed.
While food co-ops are becoming popular, there is little published literature to show their benefit and impact.
This is where Brighter Bites takes the fruitcake.
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:
Significant increase in amount of fruits and vegetables consumed.
Significant decrease in amount of added sugars consumed among children.
Twofold increase in cooking meals from scratch
Significant increase in serving more fruits and vegetables as snacks.
Significant increase in eating produce-heavy meals together at home
Twofold increase in using nutrition labels to guide grocery purchases
“Brighter Bites is a theory-driven, evidence-based health promotion program that mitigates fruit and vegetable waste and converts it into a public health opportunity by systematically sourcing and channeling primarily donated produce into underserved communities.”
“The overarching goal of Brighter Bites is to increase the demand for, and intake of, fruits and vegetables among low-income children and their families. To ensure this happens, our model provides comprehensive nutrition education for students and their parents and creates exciting opportunities for children to practice healthy eating behaviors in school and at home. Ongoing evaluation allows us to critically assess program efficacy, while pushing the scientific dialogue forward to understand how to healthfully feed our families.”
94% of participating parents reported their family ate all or most of the fruits provided, and 87% ate all or most of the vegetables.
Participating families reported attending 7 of 8 available distributions on average in each of the fall and spring semesters.
On average each week, Brighter Bites families received 57 servings of fruits and vegetables, which cost the program $2.65 per family per week.
Throughout the 2017-18 academic year we will study the effect of exposure to the Brighter Bites program on students’ consumption of fruits and vegetables during school lunch in select elementary schools in the Houston and Dallas Independent School Districts.
Plate waste in schools participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) has become a growing topic of interest for researchers. The new dietary guidelines for school lunch menus set forth by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) include an increase in fruit and vegetable options to provide students with a more nutritious meal during the school day.
Most children, however, do not consume enough fruits and vegetables in their diet because they either do not choose them in the lunch line or they leave them untouched on their tray.
Our main research question in this study is to find out if there is a significant change in the amount of fruit and vegetables wasted in school lunches among children participating in the Brighter Bites program as compared to children enrolled in schools not receiving Brighter Bites.
We hypothesize that children exposed to the Brighter Bites program will consume more fruits and vegetables at lunch time, thus reducing the amount of food wasted at school. As part of this hypothesis, we will evaluate the relationship between the number of weeks participating families picked up the produce and the fruit and vegetables wasted among children at lunch time.
Translating research into practice, and practice into research.
Sharma, S.V., Upadhyaya, M., Bounds, G., & Markham, C., A public health opportunity found in food waste. Preventing Chronic Disease. November 2017, Volume 14:160596.
Alcazar, L., Raber, M., Lopez, K., Markham, C., & Sharma, S.V., Examining the impact of a school-based fruit and vegetable co-op in the Hispanic community through documentary photography. Appetite. 2017, Volume 116, pp 115-122.
Sharma, S. V., Chow, J., Pomeroy, M., Raber, Salako, D. O., & Markham, C. Lessons learned from the implementation of Brighter Bites: a food co-op to increase access to fruits and vegetables and nutrition education among low-income children and their families. Journal of School Health. April 2017, Volume 87, Number 4, pp 284-296.
Raber, M., Sharma, S. V., Pomeroy, M., Mody, A., Markham, C., & Lopez, K. K. Brighter Sights: Using Photovoice for a Process Evaluation of a Food Co-op Style Nutrition Intervention. Journal of Health Disparities Research. Fall 2016, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp. 20-34.
Sharma, S. V., Markham, C., Chow, J., Ranjit, N., Pomeroy, M., & Raber, M. Evaluating a school-based fruit and vegetable co-op in low-income children: a quasi-experimental study. Preventive Medicine. 2016, Volume 91, pp 8–17.
Sharma, S. V., Markham, C., Helfman, L., Albus, K., Pomeroy, & M, Chuang, R.J. Feasibility and acceptability of Brighter Bites: A food co-op in schools to increase access, continuity and education of fruits and vegetables among low-income populations. Journal of Primary Prevention. 2015, Volume 36, Issue 4, pp 281-286.
Cousins, S., Sharma, S.V. (November 2017). Brighter Bites: Marketing as a catalyst for change. Oral presentation at the American Public Health Association 2017 Annual Meeting in Atlanta, GA.
Alcazar, L., Sharma, S.V. (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.
Brighter Bites dissemination and scalability study across 3 cities (Houston, Dallas, and Austin) – 2015-2016.
Brighter Bites Gut Microbiome Study – Mechanisms to understand how Brighter Bites changes dietary habits. Collaborators: Texas Children’s Hospital, Human Microbiome Center.
Collective impact model to address food insecurity in North Pasadena, Texas (B.U.I.L.D.). Collaborators: Harris County Public Health Environmental Services, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and the Houston Food Bank; funded by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
A pilot randomized controlled trial to evaluate the feasibility and impact of Brighter bites in a faith-based setting. Collaborator: University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.
Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) with pregnant women, mothers and infants. Collaborators: part of THRIVE coordinated efforts spearheaded by UT Physicians.