Fruits and veggies are recipe for healthy PISD elementary schools

Fruits and veggies are recipe for healthy PISD elementary schools
Posted on 11/29/2018
Fruits and veggies are recipe for healthy PISD elementary schools
by Dwight Henson
PISD Communications

The Brighter Bites program provides families and teachers at participating elementary schools with 50 servings of fruits and vegetables, every week for eight weeks, in both the fall and spring semesters.

The three-year program started in Pasadena ISD in the fall of 2014, after former Health and Wellness Coordinator Pam Tevis asked Red Bluff Elementary Principal Tammie Hinton if her school would participate in the program as part of a study being conducted by the UT School of Public Health.

 “Pam asked me if Red Bluff wanted to participate in the study and of course we were more than willing to do whatever we could to help benefit our students,” said Hinton. “The guys from UT came out and they weighed the students at the beginning of the year and then again at the end of the year, to see what impact healthy eating would have on them.”

Now operating independent of the study, the program is open to both elementary schools and HEAD START facilities, with the goal of serving at least 150 families at each site per year. They also provide day camps during the summer.

“Brighter Bites is such an awesome program because it feeds our families and gives them a healthy option and healthy alternatives to those processed and prepackaged foods,” said Brighter Bites Program Coordinator Jacqueline Castro.

Brighter Bites teams up with many local businesses and organizations, such as HEB and the Houston Food bank, to provide families and teachers with the fruits and veggies they need. They also share recipes and cooking tips specific to the produce they are distributing.

“Today in our bag we got collard greens,” said Fisher Elementary teacher Victoria Cyr. “I wouldn’t normally cook collard greens, but they gave us a recipe to show us how we can prepare it.”

“It’s something that they wouldn’t normally eat,” added Fisher Elementary teacher Monica Varela. “Following the recipe helps our kids incorporate it into their everyday diet.”

As part of the program, Brighter Bites provides “Coordinated Approach to Child Health”, or C.A.T.C.H. training to teachers at participating schools so they incorporate healthy eating and nutrition into their lesson plans.

“While providing our kiddos with healthy fruits and vegetable is totally awesome, the fact of the matter is that in order to have real, long-lasting effects, we need to be able to reinforce healthy eating in the classroom,” said Alise Neff, Pasadena ISD instructional specialist for coordinated school health.

There are three ways an elementary school can qualify for the program: 

80% or more of students receive free or reduced lunch
The school receives Title One funding
75% or more of students live below the national poverty line

“I love volunteering for Brighter Bites,” said Sparks Elementary parent Bonnie Sagastume. “It gets me out of the house, I get to make some new friends with the parents, and I’m contributing to the school and the community around me.”

“Brighter Bites has been great for my family,” said Sparks Elementary parent Aly Shocknesse. “As a parent, it’s great to have one less thing to worry about because they provide the recipes and the vegetables for you.”

“We love the Brighter Bites program here at Jessup,” said Jessup Assistant Principal Jennifer Chavez. “It’s beneficial to our families by providing them with fresh fruits and veggies while also saving them money at the same time.”

“A hungry student is a distracted student,” said Sparks Elementary counselor Dana Babineaux. “That’s why the Brighter Bites program is so beneficial to our school. If a student doesn’t have to worry about where their next meal is coming from, they can focus more on their classwork.”

If your campus is interested in participating in the Brighter Bites program, please visit