We are Here to Change the Way Houston Eats!
By Ananya Rao and Ragini Khullar
Bite of HOPE is a teaching kitchen program run by HOPE Clinic. The goal of this program is to promote healthy and sustainable eating habits and reduce the risk of diabetes, obesity, and other diet-related health conditions. This summer, eleven high school students came together as part of an internship program organized by Bite of HOPE to help change the way the greater Houston area eats. Under Bite of HOPE, Chef Joseph Brozovich, participants leveraged their passion for healthy eating, and their interest in the medical sciences to help their communities. Participants of the leadership program all have a multitude of reasons for wanting to be part of this exciting opportunity. Isabella Prudencio, a Senior at Texas A&M University and program’s strategy lead, says, "although I major in political communications, nutrition has always been my passion. This virtual internship offered a flexible schedule for me to experience this passion of mine."
As part of the internship program and to further their knowledge about food and nutrition, interns had the opportunity to talk to dieticians, food experts and restaurant owners like Anita Jaisinghani, founder of the Pondicherry Restaurant, to learn about the importance of using locally and ethically sourced ingredients. Sixteen-year-old Ananya Rao says, "My whole family is vegetarian, and we have always been very passionate about cooking and baking. Being a part of a Community Supported Agricultural farm allows my family to get locally grown fruits and vegetables each week. It has shown us the joy we can find in eating fruits and vegetables during their growing season and the importance of supporting a local farm. I love the fact that I got to meet the owner of a restaurant in Houston that shares our passion."
Participants also researched restaurants in the Alief and Aldine areas. Elena Porras says, "out of the 120 restaurants I researched for a zip code in the Aldine area, 40 were fastfood restaurants, and I was surprised by the lack of variety. I remember walking with my school downtown for an extended amount of time to accommodate everyone's dietary restrictions." While program dieticians stressed the importance of portion control, participants found that the phrase "everything is bigger in Texas" pushes bigger portion sizes in most restaurants leading to a higher risk of overeating.
Dr.Jean Bombach and Dr. Ashley Chen, HOPE Clinic doctors, explained how a combination of physical activity and a good diet can help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Participants took part in an activity where they were able to calculate the number of calories they consumed each day and talked about the tough relationship some had with food in the past. According to rising junior Ragini Khullar, "the media can be so damaging for young people in how they view their bodies. As someone who has been affected by that media influence, I knew that it would be important for me to advocate for healthier ways to lose weight. We see so many people starve themselves and exercise excessively to lose weight, but that is not the only way. It certainly isn't a healthy way! Educating myself on food and food-related issues truly helped me understand the importance of nutrition and maintaining a healthy lifestyle."
The output of the program included a series of videos to help the community make small changes to their lifestyles and achieve balance in their nutrition; as well as the creation of the inspiring and motivational slogan whose objective is to change the way Houston eats. “Happy Healthy Houston” will speak to the community and will be the city of Houston’s mantra.