Pilot Light, FRESHEALTH, & the USDA join Puprika the Puppy Chef on a SnackTime Explorer Adventure!

Read Puprika’s ADVENTURE NOTES from Real SnackTime Explorer Classrooms! 

Greetings, Explorers! My name is Puprika, puppy chef and leader of the all-new SNACKTIME EXPLORER expedition team! Over the past several months, Chicago Public Schools 2nd grade students have embarked on weekly explorations of Fresh Fruit and Vegetable (FFVP) snacks, fresh produce snacks delivered to their classrooms from the USDA. SnackTime Explorers don’t just eat their FFVP snacks: instead, they journey into the world of fruits and vegetables. SnackTime Explorers can transform a simple orange slice into an exciting exploration of taste, smell, texture, and sound. 

My friends at Pilot Light & FRESHEALTH wanted to learn more about these brave new SnackTime Explorers adventurers, so we banded together to travel to their classrooms across Chicago to encounter them firsthand. Along the way, we even teamed up with a special guest from the USDA who helped us observe the SnackTime Explorers in action! I’m offering you very special access to my field notes from our expeditions – read on to find out exactly what we learned… 


First stop on our expedition was a 2nd grade Chicago classroom exploring the exciting world of BLOOD ORANGES. These juicy, vibrant snacks have a name that may be frightening for some, but the SnackTime Explorers we visited embraced this exploration with no fear! 

My expedition partner Eileen Torpy (Pilot Light Dir. of School & District Partnerships) took special note of Explorers’ knowledge of their snacks’ nutrition values: when their teacher asked the classroom “If we take a bite of blood oranges, what vitamin will we be putting in our body?,” one bright young SnackTime Explorer replied confidently, “Vitamin C!” 

Eileen also took special note of the confidence and skill of the teachers leading their SnackTime Explorers on each adventure, writing in our adventure notes: “one of the best things is being able to see different teachers use the SnackTime Explorer toolkit depending on their individual teaching style. Teachers are able to adapt the toolkit to fit what works best for them and their classroom, which means every SnackTime Explorer gets to be the leader of their own adventure!”


On our second exploration, our expedition team was lucky enough to witness a group of SnackTime Explorers who were experiencing WATERMELON RADISHES. Most Explorers had never encountered this fruity-sounding vegetable before, and initially expressed a healthy skepticism of the unknown snack. However, another experienced teacher reminded their students of the SnackTime Explorer credo: “We don’t yuck someone else’s yum!” Over the years, this motto has helped change my own canine ways of thinking & talking to other puppy chefs about their food choices, so seeing these young SnackTime Explorers practice saying “It’s not for me, thanks!” instead of “Ew, gross!” sent my tail wagging! 

Marissa Dake, my FRESHEALTH expedition partner, took special note of the creativity demonstrated by these SnackTime Explorers during their adventure: one of them even said they would put watermelon radishes “on my salad AND in my yogurt!” A young Explorer with excellent chef instincts! 


For our third & final expedition, I was joined by Alex DeSorbo Quinn (Pilot Light Executive Director) and an extra special guest from our friends at the USDA, Vinh Le (USDA Food and Nutrition Service Midwest Region)! I was extra excited to explore with Vinh because he and his teammates at the USDA are responsible for the whole Fresh Fruit and Vegetable program – without them, the SnackTime Explorers wouldn’t have fresh produce snacks to explore! 

Vinh was a thoughtful and enthusiastic expedition partner. In our adventure notes, he wrote: “It was great to see Pilot Light’s SnackTime Explorers Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program in action. The hands-on nutrition education session about SUGAR SNAP PEAS was great. Seeing the curiosity and excitement on the student’s faces really demonstrates how enriching this experience is.” 

This adventure was special because we observed SnackTime Explorer students leading the task of sorting and delivering the FFVP snacks to many different classrooms throughout their school, as well as taste testing the sweet and crunchy pea pods for the first time ever! My expedition partner Alex took special note of the Pilot Light Food Education Standards being used during the adventure, and the unique way an Explorers’ mindset can transform from hesitant to curious to enthusiastic about trying a new food! 


Looking back on these adventure notes, I’m happy to report that the Pilot Light & FRESHEALTH SnackTime Explorer teams across Chicago have gotten the chance to experience new and delicious snacks, as well as the opportunity to practice thoughtfulness, self awareness, and social awareness with their expedition teams! But don’t take my puppy chef word for it: several SnackTime Explorer teachers report students demonstrating curiosity, excitement, and thoughtfulness during and after their weekly explorations. I think this SnackTime Explorer educator said it best: “Students are now mindful of what they say about foods they like or don’t like and how what they say will impact others. They frequently remind each other of the impact of their words.” 

After these successful adventures, I’m looking forward to kicking back with some watermelon radishes and reviewing all my notes and findings from the field. Until next time, this is Puprika puppy chef, signing off! 

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