Feeding Houston: Brighter Bites, Houston Food Bank and Cougar Cupboard

We cover a number of gourmet restaurants, booming burger joints and primo pizza parlors here in the Houston Press. And as much as we enjoy scouting out new cafes and happy hour hotspots, we also realize that a large number of Houstonians not only lack the means to dine out but also face hunger within their homes as well.

We are a massively spread out city and arguably the most diverse in the nation. And meeting the needs of those facing food insecurity is a daunting task. One organization alone cannot serve all of Houston’s families and residents in need. Houston Food Bank, the nation’s largest food bank network, serves 18 southeast Texas counties. That’s a lot of people to feed.

There are other organizations, however, that also have arisen in the past few years to provide more than just boxes of non-perishable foods, but also fresh produce and education. Working together, these non-profits benefit those in need of food and healthy habits. And some of them have experienced some big boosts lately in their efforts to do so.

Brighter Bites

Recently, we were invited to the Brighter Bites Second Anniversary Gala to meet with some of its organizers and strategists, folks who aim to not only provide school children with fresh produce but also educate families about the preservation and cooking of the precious ingredients.

Brighter Bites, which began in 2012, is the brainchild of founder and board chair Lisa Helfman and co-founder Dr. Shreela Sharma. Helfman attributes her inspiration for the non-profit to her decision years ago to take part in a weekly fruit and vegetable co-op to provide fresh produce for her family. One day her 6-year-old son, now a young man seated in the audience, turned down a slice of cake at a party because it was too sweet and asked instead for some berries. Helfman says she realized then that exposing children to healthy foods could make a difference but that not all children have access to fresh produce.

She began a collaboration with Dr. Sharma, a nutrition expert and professor of epidemiology at UTHealth School of Public Health. They started with local schools, providing fruits and vegetables donated by produce partners. Some students did not even recognize the different berries, citrus and greens.

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