Brighter Bites is a non-profit organization that focuses on three pillars: nutrition education, produce distribution, and fun food experience. Their non-profit mainly works with elementary schools and sometimes they work with middle schools. Each school that they partner with is either title one or 80% free reduced lunch, but they do make exceptions depending on the area and how much in need those schools are.
“A lot of times you see communities that have food desserts. That is where we come in and we see a lot of families that do not have access to free and healthy food or they live out in the field where they have to drive at least 10 miles to drive to a grocery store,” said Sonia Rodriguez, event organizer at Brighter Bites.
Sunset Middle School in Lamont is one of the first schools that started with Brighter Bites in March. Brighter Bites’ organization is based out in Huston, Texas, and they have expanded to 12 cities since 2012. Currently, they are celebrating their 10-year anniversary. They have fed a lot of families throughout the years and have helped many schools.
Now, they are hoping to keep growing in Bakersfield.
“When we come to a school, we really are making a difference with our families, and they are so grateful when they come in. We provide eight to 10 variety items and 20 to 25 pounds of produce. Everything is fresh and we work with CAPK food bank so a lot of our food is donated,” said Rodriguez.
Grimmway, CAL Organic, Wonderful, and CAPK have all partnered with Brighter Bites to help families in low-income areas.
Once the pallets are dropped at the distribution center, the produce is distributed into bags by volunteers. The bags are built depending on how many families are enrolled.
By the time families receive their products, students have learned how important fruits and vegetables are from their teachers. This is part of the three pillars that Brighter Bites follows.
“When we go into the schools, we also ask teachers to do nutrition education and it is called out catch curriculum anywhere from kindergarten all the way to eighth grade so that in partner with our produce distribution which gives that double experiment for children to say ‘oh my teacher was really excited about this fresh food maybe I should start eating it,’” said Rodriguez.
Students look up to their teachers and that is a way to connect students to eating healthy. Brighter Bites also provides booklets with information about fresh food and recipes that students can follow. There is also a Spanish version of the booklet that parents would be able to follow with their children. The booklets provide a recipe demonstration such as fun salads and smoothies.
Students learn what a whoa food and go food is. A whoa food is a salty and sugary snack that provides little nutrition and will leave children feeling hungry. A go food is the type of food that provides fuel and is nutritious.
“It is really great because you start hearing the language with the kids. Every day you hear kids saying that is a whoa food and that is a go food. And I am happy to see students adopt the language that we use and how it is really sticking with them,” said Rodriguez.
We work within the 16-week program, so 8 weeks in the fall and 8 weeks in the spring. We are here biweekly. Aside from community members, parents also volunteer to help with food distribution.
“I feel fortunate to be a part of this. I am able to help and I enjoy it when the parents come to pick up food. They are very grateful and they thank me, and it feels really good to help. I have kids here and they teach them to eat more fruits and vegetables and they give them healthy recipes to learn how to mix more fruits and vegetables,” said Carmen Montoya, parent volunteer.
Those who wish to volunteer at Brighter Bites can find more information here: https://cerv.is/0174gwMNdyJ.