Creating healthy eating habits in an urban ‘food desert’

Houston’s Recipe for Success Foundation changes the way kids understand, appreciate and eat their food

South of downtown Houston—nestled between two concrete rivers, Interstate 610 and the Sam Houston Tollway, that loop around a city well-known for its industrial landscape and urban sprawl—sits an abundant seven-acre farm.

Recipe for Success Foundation’s Hope Farm is located in the Sunnyside neighborhood of Houston, one of the city’s many “food deserts”—that is, an area where it’s difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food. It sits amid five elementary schools and within walking distance of 5,000 neighbors.

Recipe for Success Foundation fights to combat childhood obesity by changing the way children understand, appreciate, and eat their food, while also educating and mobilizing the community to provide them with healthier diets.

A strong advocate of equitable food access, or access to healthy food for all, Recipe for Success Foundation services SNAP and WIC participants and provides its neighbors with extra discounts for being in the same zip code.

“We are not a grocery store. We don’t want to be in that business. What we do is grow healthy foods at affordable prices,” says founder, president and CEO Gracie Cavnar.

In addition to making it easier for local parents to physically provide healthy food options, Recipe for Success Foundation empowers the next generation of food consumers to make healthy decisions and teaches that healthy eating isn’t just important, but can be easy and delicious through its educational programming.

Beginning with hands-on classes in local schools that put children in touch with their food from seed to plate, the organization has branched out over time into other community outreach programming, including classes and events.

Sustainability is central to everything we do at Enbridge, and that includes helping to create healthy, sustainable communities.

In 2020, we donated $10,000 to Recipe Success Foundation to help launch its Eat It! Food Adventures program—which reimagines that original seed-to-plate programming into fun for the whole family with virtual cooking and gardening courses, and activities such as scavenger hunts, games and coloring pages.

“Investing in a child’s eating behavior before the age of 11 is important because it contributes to the formation of their habits and point of view. After that you’re trying to change it, which is nearly impossible,” says Cavnar.

“Empowering healthy eating helps prevent chronic diseases brought on by obesity and poor diet, paying off tenfold down the line in savings to the health care system. The return on investment for creating healthy eating habits young is extraordinarily impactful.”