As quarantines and lockdowns rippled through our communities at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sharma recognized an opportunity to help families address mounting health and social needs through Brighter Bites, a nonprofit organization she cofounded in 2012. Brighter Bites distributes fresh produce and educational nutrition resources to low-income families in six major cities across the nation, including Houston. With help from School of Public Health students, they are compiling resources to ensure families have access to the help they need.
“We started by collecting evidence-based information, such as food pantry procedures, public transportation schedules, eviction laws, and mental health guidance,” says Amelia Khoei, a third-year MD/MPH student. “We organized that information into comprehensive documents for clients at each Brighter Bites location.”
Amelia also mustered additional student volunteers.
“Five minutes after sending a call for help to classmates, every volunteer position was filled,” she says. “COVID-19 canceled our clinical courses in 2020, taking us away from patients, but we all still wanted to do anything we could to help people in our community.”
Maha Almohamad, a second-year PhD student in epidemiology and graduate research assistant at Brighter Bites, is leading the charge to confirm the accuracy of each resource.
“We are constantly updating our resources as laws and guidelines change,” she says. “We also translate the resources into the languages our Brighter Bites families speak to ensure everyone has access.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the health and social inequalities that torment our communities, but thanks to School of Public Health students like Amelia and Maha, Brighter Bites is helping to safeguard our most vulnerable families.