( The Packer )

The Packer’s West Coast Produce Expo has named Brighter Bites as the event’s golf tournament beneficiary.

The May 9-10 West Coast Produce Expo, now in its 5th year, once again features a sold-out golf tournament, the West Coast Produce Charity Golf Classic. The tournament is May 9 at the JW Marriott in Palm Desert, Calif.

“We are thrilled to partner with Brighter Bites to help them propel their mission of creating healthier communities through the introduction of more fresh produce — all while giving a meaningful purpose for all of the golfers participating in the West Coast Produce Charity Golf Classic,” said Shannon Shuman, publisher of The Packer and vice president of produce for The Packer’s parent company, Farm Journal, 

Brighter Bites, Houston, is a nonprofit founded in 2012 by Lisa Helfman and Dr. Shreela Sharma. The group delivers fresh fruits and vegetables directly into families’ hands, while teaching them how to use and prepare fresh produce.

“We are so grateful to The Packer for choosing us,” said Stefanie Cousins, director of marketing and communications for Brighter Bites. “This is a wonderful opportunity for us.”

Since 2012, Cousins said Brighter Bites has delivered more than 21 million pounds of produce to more than 265,000 people. Brighter Bites is present in Houston, Dallas and Austin in Texas and also in New York City, Washington D.C. and Collier County in southwest Florida.

Brighter Bites works with schools to distribute bagged fresh produce — typically close to 25 to 30 pounds each — to families in the community.

In addition to a summer program, Brighter Bites operates for about eight weeks in the fall and eight weeks in the spring at each school.

The mission of Brighter Bites is to Create Communities of Health through Fresh Food, and it accomplishes this mission through a three-step program of Food Access, Food Literacy, and Food Engagement. The group also provides nutrition education consisting of handbooks, recipe cards, healthy tip sheets, and support for the implementation of a coordinated school health program.

Cousins said the Brighter Bites approach is building demand for fresh produce in the communities it serves. She said research shows that families who have been in the program typically consume much more produce than those that haven’t, even two years after leaving the program.

“We know that we’re creating demand, and this is something that we’re really trying to communicate to the produce industry,” she said.

Cousins said Brighter Bites hopes to expand to another city in the next six to twelve months, but it needs more funding.

“We need more produce partners — we need more donated produce to really make another city happen,” she said.

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