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Brighter Bites

To improve dietary behaviors and health outcomes among children and families by providing fresh produce and nutrition education.

Photo of Stefanie Cousins
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Brighter Bites

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Large NGO (over 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

Brighter Bites collaborates with a number stakeholders across the country. We work with Feeding America food banks, produce growers and shippers, distributors and retailers. and academic institutions such as UTHealth School of Public Health.

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 3-10 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Houston, TX

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

United States of America

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

United States of America

What country is your selected Place located in?

United States of America

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Brighter Bites has established programs in Houston, Dallas, Austin, New York City, Washington, D.C., and Southwest Florida. We have plans to expand to two more U.S. cities in 2020. Currently, Brighter Bites is only available to U.S. schools that have >80% children enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program or are designated Title I. This is the broad universe of potential schools that are eligible to receive our program in any given city, and certainly, there is no shortage of eligible sites or participants. In our existing cities, we work with our operational partners to identify priority areas of expansion - areas that have historically been underserved by nonprofit food access initiatives, experience high levels of food insecurity, or have low levels of healthy food access. Within those parameters, Brighter Bites looks for school partners who have high student populations, an engaged principal and faculty willing to collaborate, and adequate on-campus space and accessibility. We also try to select schools that are clustered near each other, geographically, in order to amplify our impact across a broader swath of a given community.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

The mission of Brighter Bites is to create communities of health through fresh food. We work in underserved communities in Houston, Dallas, Austin, New York City, Washington, D.C., and Southwest Florida. Over the 2018-2019 school year, 72% of Brighter Bites families identified as food insecure, representing a portion of the 11% of households nationally that are food insecure.

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Despite state and federal efforts, obesity is still on the rise in the U.S. The percentage of children and adolescents affected by obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s, with data showing that 34% of 6-to-11 year olds are overweight or obese. The obesity epidemic affects nearly every region of the country and every demographic group, however, rates have increased the fastest among low-income Americans and racial minorities - exacerbating pre-existing health disparities among these populations in particular. According to the American Diabetes Association, the annual cost of diabetes in 2017 was $327 B, including $237 B in direct medical expenditures and $90 B in reduced worker productivity. There is a widespread lack of understanding regarding how diet impacts health. Less than half of children in the U.S. eat the recommended amount of fruits daily, and 93% of children consume fewer vegetables than recommended. These produce consumption rates, which statistics show are even lower among underserved populations, put individuals at greater risk for chronic disease (including but not limited to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, various types of cancers, digestive issues, and weight problems) later in life. Paradoxically, while an estimated 10% of the U.S. population has poor access to fresh foods, an estimated 72 B pounds of food ends up in landfills every year. Forty percent of the U.S. supply chain of fruits and vegetables goes to waste every year, costing $218 billion annually to grow, process, transport, and dispose of food that is never eaten. From farms to fridges, waste is a massive problem that has infiltrated every level of our food system, but a problem that Brighter Bites is helping to address. By channeling primarily donated and reclaimed produce directly into underserved families' hands, and giving them the tools to understand how to use it, we are converting food waste into a public health opportunity for the families we serve.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Brighter Bites is a nonprofit that creates communities of health through fresh food with the goal of changing behavior among children and families to prevent obesity and achieve long-term health. Brighter Bites is an evidence-based, multi-component elementary school, preschool, and summer camp program that utilizes reliable access to fruits and vegetables, nutrition education, and consistent exposure to recipes and messages that feature fresh food. Each week families and teachers participating in Brighter Bites receive two bags containing approximately 50 servings of eight to 12 different fresh produce items along with nutrition education materials and a recipe sample to see how good fresh produce tastes. Since 2012, Brighter Bites has provided more than 25 million pounds of produce and 100,000s of nutrition education materials to more than 275,000 individuals (including teachers) in Houston, Dallas, Austin, New York City, the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area, and Southwest Florida.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Brighter Bites aims to improve dietary behaviors and health outcomes among children and families by providing fresh produce and nutrition education with the goal of significantly improving health outcomes in these communities and reducing health services.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Email

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Alana Libow

Hi Stefanie Cousins - Welcome to the Food System Vision Prize!

Your goal to create communities of health through fresh food to ultimately change behavior among children and families, prevent obesity and achieve long-term health, is vital.

We are unable to see your videos - - We suggest re-uploading them and/or including a link to youtube or other source that we can access.

Also, it is important that your vision be connected to a place. We suggest you select one place that your vision can be focused on (as we see that BrighterBites has a large reach). If you provide us the vision toward one place, we can imagine the ripple effect. However, it is key to zoom into one place, as that allows you to share with us challenges for that place and how your vision is responding to that directly. Additionally, by zooming into one place, we can understand how the community is engaged etc (please share examples of how the community is engaged - particularly if we cannot see a video that may showcase that).

Looking forward to seeing your updates!