Creative film producer, screenwriter, and director Evelyn Brito could very well be our next “Fixer Upper” sensation. But instead of creating client’s dream homes, Brito is renovating the way we shop for groceries, and the healthier food options we can expect on our next trip to our neighborhood bodega store. A genuine storyteller, sharing the impactful stories of these bodega owners, one at a time, highlighting their journey of transforming their store to better represent its communities with healthy eating choices.
Brito is the genius mind behind the newest web series hitting the internet this month called “Bodega Makeover.” She is the writer, and executive producer of the docu-reality webs series that will change the way “Bodegueros” run their stores, and open up a whole new world of more nutritional and healthier options they offer their neighborhoods, improving on its “community’s quality of life,” it reads on the website.
The series will tell the stories of these primarily Hispanic/urban communities while delving into the backstory of its community residents, the bodega owners, and the organizations they are partnering with to make the transformation a reality.
“As a Latina, I feel it’s time for us to take our health seriously, and for a show like Bodega Makeover to highlight that in our culture,” shared Brito. “I pitched it to so many networks, but they all said it’s a great concept but basically letting me know there’s not enough drama. So my response to them is, what about the Oprah Channel? The Oprah Channel is a feel good channel, and you’re telling me Latinos can’t have a feel-good show? Comments like this kept my energy going to continue the project.”
This Latina Filmmaker clearly is making a statement with her Bodega Makeover series which has raised over $3,600 of its fundraising goal through the IFUNDWOMEN website to be able to move forward one bodega at a time, creating the change these neighborhoods deserve to build healthier communities. Having experience in the non-profit world as well, this multi-talented artist has always had the desire to help others. “I worked in a domestic violence shelter as an advocate and was able to help a lot of women get on their feet. This experience was more personal as I felt like I helped an organization that helped my mom get back on her feet, and I wanted to continue giving back to the community,” shared Brito. “I also love being creative, so I wanted to find a way to mix my passion for my community, and my passion to help.”
Bodega Makeover was an idea born out of the need for healthier food options these neighborhood stores lacked. “It started with my daughter who was two at the time and a picky eater. She really took to eating vegetables. So I went to visit a few bodegas in the area, and couldn’t find any fresh fruits and vegetables,” shared Brito. “My question to them was, why don’t you have fresh fruits and vegetables here?” Having her father and family work in bodegas she heard an answer that resonated throughout her life that bodegas lack the resources needed to provide healthier food options, and the education needed. They were missing out on that connection with the community.
It was this “aha moment” that sparked a fire under Brito to realize she could be the advocate for the change these bodegas, and their communities needed. Starting with community bodegas in Lynn, Massachusetts, introduced to her by her Co-Executive Producer Alexander Cuevas, Brito is planning to revamp these neighborhood stores through the Bodega Makeover web series by providing them with the resources and education they need to make improvements. They are also as bringing in community health experts and designers to round out the process of creating and building healthier communities, one bodega at a time, with plans to visit and transform bodegas across the 50 states eventually.
“How we find these bodegas is that we partner with local organizations to connect with the bodegas that qualify, that have a story, and to see where there’s a need. They go through an interview process much like a casting call,” shared Brito. Non-profits such as The Food Project, “which connects young people to agriculture and to urban stores,” are also a driving force in partnering with Brito to make this goal a realization.
“Food Deserts,” as mentioned on the Bodega Makeover website, is part of the problem that contributes to the lack of resources these stores lag in. “About 23.5 million people live in food deserts. Nearly half of them are also low-income. Approximately 2.3 million people (2.2% of all US households) live in low-income, rural areas that are more than 10 miles from a supermarket.” Brito is determined to change that so families can expect to find the healthier food options they need at their neighborhood bodega.
This Latina trailblazer is ready, and armed with the necessary tools to help these bodega owners, some of which are millennials taking over the family-owned business, to get the resources and financial help needed to gain the trust of its communities. And also have a store that not only showcases well, but improves the quality of products it offers its residents for a healthier lifestyle.
“You have to evolve yourself in everything. What’s going on in your community? What are the grants you need to apply to stay in business,” shared Brito. “We want to make sure after the cameras are gone these bodega owners utilize resources to continue in business.” With the pilot episode set to debut this month, Brito shared their hope to do two seasons in Lynn, Mass.
Bodega Makeover is definitely not your typical makeover series but will resonate with its viewers, and communities because of its heartfelt mission. “The business owner will be involved in every process of the makeover, not just the initial meeting,” shared Brito. “The community will also be involved. We will be utilizing urban farms such as ones grown in middle schools, and have those vegetables be a part of the bodega. Every episode will be different, and it won’t be your cookie cutter show.”
One of Brito’s greatest accomplishment she shared is the partners she highlights on their website that have come on board and stand behind their mission to share these impactful stories while creating those connections to improve and provide healthier food options. “I want consumers to know they have choices. Their voice can be heard,” shared Brito. Bodega Makeover is sure to catch the attention of mainstream television so that this phenomenal web series will be hitting a local channel near you in the future. For now, you can catch the series at mybodegamakeover.com.
To learn more about Bodega Makeover and show your support, check out the links below.