Since its birth in 2010, Pilot Light has been looking to Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign for endless inspiration. The Campaign, also started in 2010, aims to improve the health and wellness of children in our nation, through proper nutrition and physical education. As stated on their website, “Let’s Move! is a comprehensive initiative, launched by the First Lady, dedicated to solving the problem of obesity within a generation, so that children born today will grow up healthier and able to pursue their dreams. Sure, this is an ambitious goal. But with your help, we can do it.” In addition to this initiative, President Barack Obama launched the Task Force on Childhood Obesity to work in sync with the Campaign. Check out the five fabulous goals of the Task Force:
Creating a healthy start for children
Empowering parents and caregivers
Providing healthy food in schools
Improving access to healthy, affordable foods
Increasing physical activity
Our founders, Jason Hammel, Paul Kahan, Matthias Merges and Ryan Poli were inspired by these goals to being Pilot Light. They were particularly struck by Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move, Chefs Move to Schools” campaign. This campaign focused specifically on what our founders wanted to do: go one step beyond nutrition education by bringing experienced chefs into the classroom. They did not just want to pass out some recipe booklets and talk about why vegetables are good for you. These chefs wanted to SHOW kids how exciting cooking and eating can be, and they wanted to empower them to have their own voice in the kitchen. They aimed to develop comprehensive lesson plans with Chicago teachers, so that children could learn about food in ways that were comfortable and creative.
At Pilot Light, we share a common mission with the First Lady’s Let’s Move Campaign. We strive to bring good, whole food to children of Chicago, in hope of bettering their overall health. We have been thrilled with seeing such great success from the Campaign, as well as in our own lessons. Not only have Michelle Obama’s efforts soared in the classroom, she has made great impact at the policy level as well. The Health Hunger Free Kids Act was passed in 2010. She made sure that it was a top priority of the Campaign to work with health professionals and get this act passed. The act helped to ensure the National School Lunch Program added more fruits, veggies and whole grains to meals, and reduced amounts of meat and sodium. The act also impacted school snacks and vending machines, requiring reductions in foods with high sugar and fat content and more offerings of fruit and granola snack bars.
These steps might seem small, but as the saying goes, slow and steady wins the race, and this rings true for legislation in school food systems. It can take years of hard work and dedication to make changes like this at the policy level, and Michelle Obama is making it happen.
Here at PL, we are making waves too. We work to introduce new and healthier foods to little ones, but we also focus on integrating food education into the curriculum. It is important to offer children healthy options for breakfast, lunch and snacktime, but if they have never heard of that new fruit or veggie, or they have no clue what “whole grain” really means, they can feel intimidated and uneasy about that first taste. We work with Chicago chefs and teachers to weave lessons about food into everyday lesson plans. Soon enough, we begin to see children recognize ingredients that were once completely foreign to them. They remember that time we made vegetables taste GOOD and they share that recipe with their family at home. They make connections between where their food comes from and how it ended up on their plates. They might even go home at the end of the day and ask their mom to make them a kale salad. Yes. I said KALE. (true story from one of our stellar sixth grade foodies)!
We aim to teach children that food impacts every aspect of their lives. We show them thathealthy eating can actually be FUN, and they can learn about new foods through lenses that are familiar to them like math, science, history and social studies. When little ones learn that the mysterious green veggie on the plate is good for their minds and bodies (and it might even be tasty!) they just might be a bit more open minded, and open their mouths a bit wider to take a taste.