Pilot Light and Chartwells K12 Bring School Lessons Into the Café to Nurture a Generation of Food Savvy Students

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New Partnership Aims to Inspire Lifelong Healthy Habits with Innovative Program Launching this Fall in Chicago; Soon Available to Millions of School Children Nationwide

Pilot Light and Chartwells K12 are teaming up to influence a generation by transforming Pilot Light’s innovative, hands on and Common Core-centered classroom lessons into the healthy meals Chartwells K12 serves in school cafes. The partnership will help nurture a new generation of food educated, healthy eaters who not only understand what’s good for them and why, but that nutritious foods taste great!

Pilot Light’s premise is a simple yet powerful one: educate kids about their food so they are empowered to make healthy choices throughout their lives. Currently, this is done through interactive and engaging lessons developed through a partnership between chefs and teachers, who weave food and nutrition into traditional school subjects. For example, in history, students and chef talk about the famous stockyards and where meat comes from in an age appropriate way. A science lesson incorporates a chef dicing fresh vegetables and teaching students about the origins of farms and farming practices.    

The official partnership will kick-off in the Noble Network of Charter Schools in Chicago, already an innovator and forward thinking program, with plans to expand to more Chartwells schools in the following months. Participating Chartwells K12 schools will pair their culinary teams with educators to integrate “Pilot Light” curriculum and lessons in the classroom, geared to different grade levels, with corresponding food being served in the cafe.

Pilot Light insights show that students who have been exposed to its curriculum are 76 percent more likely to try new foods, and 71 percent will ask their parents for healthier foods. Pilot Light achieves this by creating lesson plans that teach students about food, where it comes from, how it grows and how their choices affect their bodies and the environment. The new partnership will help Pilot Light reach millions more students through Chartwells K12’s network of schools across the country.

“As chefs, we set the table, we nourish and provide. Pilot Light embodies this mission in a totally new way by connecting kids with food in a way they understand,” said Chef Paul Kahan, one of Pilot Light’s co-founders whose restaurants include Avec, Publican and Big Star, among others. “Not only do we want children to eat healthy food, we want them to understand their food – where it comes from, why it’s good for you and how to make it taste great. This knowledge is what will create long-lasting, healthy habits. And we want to bring that knowledge to every child, in every school.”

As a trusted partner to thousands of school districts across the country, Chartwells K12 is leading the trend toward teaching and developing food literacy and healthy habits at a young age by using fresh ingredients and getting kids actively involved in the discussion around their overall wellness. This partnership brings an innovative education approach to students by providing holistic lesson plans geared to students of all ages.

“We’re excited to partner with Pilot Light to bring chef-led, engaging food education to the table for students,” said Rhonna Cass, CEO of Chartwells K12. “Rethinking food education and discovery is at the core of our responsibility to nourish students’ bodies and minds and build a healthier, well-educated generation.”

Truly unique to the partnership, Chartwells K12 will help Pilot Light bring the instruction full circle by pairing the instruction with related food items on school lunch menus. Sample lesson plans include:

  •     Noodles to Neighborhoods: Students are taught about the migration of people by tracing the origin of noodles and the impact combining fresh foods can have on overall health
  •     The Whole World is a Taco: Students explore social and cultural migration through the history of the al pastor taco and its healthy, fresh ingredients.
  •     I am what I Eat: Students use a collage poetry method to see how individual experience connects to a collective experience with fresh foods as the medium to discovering healthy habits

“We believe a healthy and food-savvy lifestyle is a crucial piece of a successful academic culture,” said Michael Madden, Chief Operating Officer, Noble Network of Schools, “We’re thrilled and honored to welcome Pilot Light to Noble.”

About Pilot Light
Pilot Light is a Chicago-based nonprofit organization that helps kids make healthier choices by connecting the lessons they learn in the classroom to the foods they eat on their lunch trays, at home, and in their communities. Founded in 2010 by chefs Jason Hammel, Paul Kahan, and Matthias Merges, Pilot Light accomplishes its mission by partnering chefs and teachers to make learning about food in schools a priority for children through food-based classroom curriculum in everyday subjects like math, social studies, and science. These lessons feed young minds by igniting children's curiosity for the food on their plates and demonstrating its connection to every aspect of what they do and learn. Pilot Light has reached over 2,550 students in their classrooms and hosts 18 teachers from schools throughout Chicago in its training Institute in the 2016-2017 school year. For more information, visit http://www.pilotlightchefs.org.

About Chartwells K12
Chartwells provides meals to dining services for school districts, ranging from large public institutions to small charter and private schools, and prides itself on creating customized programs to match the requests of the students, parents and faculty. Chartwells is a culinary-focused organization with a mission to extend its passion, dedication, knowledge and enthusiasm into serving each student delicious and nutritious meals. The company is built on decades of food and education experience and driven by top culinary, nutrition, wellness and sustainability talent. For more information, visit http://www.ChartwellsK12.com/.

About The Noble Network of Charter Schools
Noble is Chicago's largest and highest performing network of public high schools, providing a non-selective, open-enrollment education at 17 campuses. More than 90 percent of Noble graduates matriculated to college last year. Noble campuses are located in some of Chicago's highest need communities and serve a student population that is 89% low-income and 98% minority. As a public non-selective high school, there are no testing requirements for enrollment at any of Noble's campuses. The Noble Network of Charter Schools is the 2015 winner of the Broad Prize for Top Public Charter School System in the nation.

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Meagan Meldrim
Finn Partners on behalf of Chartwells K12
+1 (312) 329 3906
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