Pilot Light partners directly with PreK–12th grade teachers who integrate Food Education, standards-aligned lessons into their classrooms.
We also invest in educators through professional development sessions, peer-to-peer advising, and community building.
We believe in honoring and uplifting each and every teacher’s unique teaching style, skills, and methods while centering the students’ experiences.
Lessons are often developed in collaboration with chefs and the Chicago community (and beyond) and are intentionally aligned to Common Core Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and Pilot Light’s own Food Education Standards. Pilot Light lessons build upon students’ existing knowledge and skills. By using food as a teaching tool for traditional subjects that teachers and already covering, educators are empowered not only to adapt our curricula but also to encourage students to learn about food through food.
Pilot Light’s History
In 2010, four Chicago chefs—Jason Hammel, Paul Kahan, Matthias Merges, and Justin Large—were inspired by Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move, Chefs Move to Schools” campaign.
These award-winning chefs wanted to give back to their Chicago community by teaching students about food, through food.
They collaborated with educators and other experts to develop a unique Common Core-aligned Food Education framework that taught students where food comes from, how it grows, and how the choices they make affect their bodies and the environment. The first lessons were delivered in a single Chicago public school, where the model was tested and honed.
With an emphasis on serving the South and West Sides of Chicago, Pilot Light expanded to serve six Chicago public schools in 2016. To more deeply invest in and learn from teachers, we launched the Pilot Light Institute for Food Education, which provides professional development to a larger number of teachers and thereby reaches a larger number of students with Food Education.
In the decade since Pilot Light was founded, we’ve grown, listened to, and learned from our teachers, their students, and their communities, and we’re still on that journey. As we grow, we are learning through our Food Education Fellowship and Food Education Center, both in their second year, and, more recently, our literacy-based eLearning lessons and family lessons with accompanying Family Meal videos.
In partnership with you, our school and community partners, and our team, we are elevating the field of food education and advancing health knowledge and behaviors.