Thursday, August 04, 2016

Brighter Bites helps kids in food deserts

Food deserts are areas with limited access to fresh fruits and veggies--say, where the only stores sell liquor and sugary snacks and are not full-service groceries (which may be miles away).

Brighter Bites is a school-based program, which in a study done by the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston and published in the July 25th Preventive Medicine, improved the intake of fruit and vegetables in first-grade children and their parents--and reduced the consumption of added sugars.

Other benefits: More home cooking and more family mealtimes.

Brighter Bites is a nonprofit founded by Lisa Helfman, who was able to see better eating habits in her own children due to membership in a food coop.

She combined distribution of fresh foods with sampling and fun information. The University of Texas team made the whole thing operational.

In the study, participants got the food and information over a 16-week span. They compared the effectiveness to CATCH--another school-based program developed at UT.

Six schools in Houston received Brighter Bites and six got CATCH. Seventy-one percent of the kids were Hispanic, 24% African-American, and 43% overweight or obese. They saw:

--a 9% increase in fruits with Bright bites--level with CATCH.

--20% increase in veggies with Brighter Bites, 7% with CATCH.

--13% decrease in added sugars with Brighter Bites, versus 2% with CATCH.

--13% increase in fruits among parents with Brighter Bites, 15% decrease with CATCH.

--6% increase in veggie intake by parents with Brighter Bites, 3% with CATCH.

The Brighter Bites families got 57 servings of fruits and veggies a week ($2.65 per family per week).

Eight-seven percent said they ate most or all of the veggies, and 94% ate most or all of the fruit.

The produce, channeled through food banks, is mostly produce that would be thrown away..thus cutting food waste.

Lots of statistics in this one--but the overall picture is a pretty significant positive.

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