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 program that purposefully channels produce from locals food banks into low-income families and combines it with hands-on education in school and for parents. 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.
This 2016 study provides us with a unique opportunity to study the longitudinal effects of Brighter Bites on the gut microbiome among children, ages 10 to 12, from low-income, ethnically diverse families in Houston, Texas.
The human gut is home to trillions of bacteria (also known as microbes), which are continuously affected by what we eat. Eating more healthy foods creates a healthier gut, which in turn increases signals to the brain to crave more nutritious food. While the contribution of the gut microbiome (the gut’s community of microbes) to various diet-related diseases such as obesity is becoming clear, causality remains to be proven in humans.
This study, the first to characterize changes in the gut bacteria following participation in a dietary intervention among children, will accelerate our ability to understand how the Brighter Bites diet modulates the gut microbes and affects children’s health.
Translating research into practice, and practice into research.
Sharma, S.V., Bounds, G., Upadhyaya, M., & Markham, C., “A public health opportunity found in food waste – the Brighter Bites case study, Houston, Texas 2013-2016.” Preventing Chronic Disease. (in press)
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.
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.
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.