Normalize vegetables to create consumer demand, improve health, says Shreela Sharma of Brighter Bites

For two years, Shreela Sharma’s team followed families at six schools that had the Brighter Bites free produce and nutrition education program and six schools that didn’t.

Sharma and her nonprofit organization’s cofounder, Lisa Helfman, wanted to see if there were maintenance effects long after the program had ended and the fresh fruits and vegetables were no longer given to them for free.

“We found that, not only were there maintenance effects, in fact the slope was steeper for parents. They had a greater increase. The kids were eating more. The parents were eating more. But they were eating even more than when they were in the Brighter Bites program, which means they were buying it. And that’s how behavior change happens,” Sharma said.

It’s all about changing cultural norms.

Brighter Bites puts produce into people’s hands and creates conversations, recipe swaps and fun, she said.

Unfamiliar produce can be intimidating, especially when you’re on a limited budget.

Sharma recalled that she didn’t first buy broccoli ever when she came to the U.S. because she didn’t know how to cook it, whether it tasted good and was worth her money.

But ever since her roommate showed her how easy and delicious it was to roast broccoli, Sharma has been eating broccoli regularly and making it for her family.

Those kinds of behavior changes can be long-lasting and creating lifelong consumers in markets where there weren’t consumers before, Sharma said.

Sharma discusses so much more in the video. Watch and learn.

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