Organizations team up to provide fresh produce to HISD students in ‘food desert’

Lantrip families benefit from Houston Food Bank, Texas Children’s Hospital, UT School of Public Health

Lantrip Elementary will have a long line outside their building Wednesday, full of students waiting to collect their fruit and vegetables. Yes, fruit and vegetables. A collaborative effort between the Houston Food Bank, Texas Children’s Hospital, and the University of Texas School of Public Health is providing students at several HISD schools access to fresh produce throughout the school year.

The collaborative, Brighter Bites, offers fresh produce and nutritional education to low-income children and their families, along with recipes and guidance.

Dora B. Lantrip Elementary, located in Houston’s East End, has nearly 600 students enrolled in the program. Every Wednesday, parent volunteers prepare two bags of fresh produce for each student to take home. The program runs for eight weeks during the fall semester and returns for eight weeks in the spring semester.

“The Lantrip learning community is thankful to have such a wonderful program that provides our students with a variety of fruits and vegetables that are important for good health,” Principal Magdalena Strickland said. Kashmere Gardens, Blackshear, and Franklin Elementary Schools also take advantage of the collaborative.

According to Jeanne Piga-Plunkett, program director at Brighter Bites, Lantrip’s program is fully incorporated in the school. Teachers include nutritional facts in their lessons, students are excited about the food samples, and parents help unload the produce pallets and distribute the materials.

“Our distribution day at Lantrip is always exciting. We have more volunteers than we have seen at other schools, and there is an enormous amount positive reaction from students,” Piga-Plunkett said. “They are not just talking about how eating healthy is important; they are participating in a program that is giving them an avenue to actually try it.”

Located in a food desert, Lantrip families are at high risk for developing health-related complications of poor nutrition, including obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. State Rep. Carol Alvarado aided in securing the elementary school as a distribution site to offset those risks.

Wednesday, March 12 is the next distribution day this year. Distribution begins at 2p.m. Media are welcome to attend.