Bellaire High School’s Future Problem Solvers Club: Helping out in Food Deserts
This year, Bellaire High School’s Future Problem Solvers club is helping end food deserts in Houston, a major problem due to its large amount of low income residents residing in the Houston area.
Annie Zhu, co-president of FPS, explains what a food desert is.
“A food desert is an area lacks grocery stores...What [this] means is that healthy food options are nonexistent leading to a multitude of health issues,” Zhu said. “The issue boils down to the fact that people cannot afford to buy healthy options, the cheapest foods are fast food, and snacks in the convenience store.”
So Annie, along with her twin sister Shirley Zhu, decided to take action. They, with the FPS club, decided to hold numerous “Fresh Hub” events. Here, fresh, nutritional produce was distributed to those who live in food desert areas.
Shirley Zhu, co-president of FPS, explains how they and FPS organized the event.
“We reached out to people in Sunnyside and in Kashmere, two food desert areas in Houston. We [also] coordinated with the Houston Health Department, who offered their Multi-Service Centers (MSC) as locations for Fresh Hub Markets, and Second Servings, a 501(c)3 nonprofit food rescue organization,” Zhu said. “Second Servings connects us to grocery stores and bakeries such as Trader Joe’s, Slow Dough, and the Bread Man who donate food that they would otherwise throw away.”
“Student volunteers go to these grocery stores and bakeries to pick up the food. Then, we bring the food to the Sunnyside MSC or Kashmere MSC to set up the markets days before the event, we also advertise to the communities around us.”
The Future Problem Solver’s hard work ended up paying off. The Fresh Hub event was extremely successful, as Annie and Shirley Zhu explain.
“The events were extremely successful, and more importantly we were able to improve from the first time, and we will continue improving,” Annie Zhu said. “We recognize that organizing such a large scale event means not getting everything perfectly the first time.”
“For example, at our first event, we held Fresh Hub in the open area of the service center, but this led to issues of having people take food before we finished setting up. Therefore at our next event we requested for a room to hold our event and we assigned one door as the entrance and one as the exit for a smooth…service.”
“Our Fresh Hub events were extremely successful. At Sunnyside MSC, we rescued and distributed over 350 pounds of rescued food from Trader Joe's, Slow Dough, and the Bread Man. Six hundred pounds of food was served at the Kashmere MSC during our second event,” Shirley Zhu said.
“Over the past two events, we have given food to over 130 people. A variety of food, ranging from baked goods, packaged meats, and sushi to an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables are distributed at our food markets. The Houston Public Library set up a booth at our event as well. A representative, Dionne Mclaughlin, from the Kashmere Neighborhood Library passed out flyers and connected our clients to their local library. By bringing two services to one location we were able to broaden our impact and improve the community on multiple fronts.”
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