The Pilot Light Food Education Standards have been developed, in collaboration with community and education stakeholders, to further the important mission of deploying and defining food education to schools throughout Chicago and beyond.

In alignment with the Standards, Pilot Light has developed a cohesive model for classroom food education, integrating food into traditional subjects like math, reading, history, and science. Pilot Light’s community of teachers builds on students’ knowledge and experiences of and with food through the lessons teachers are already teaching. Simultaneously, students are also learning about food and how it connects us to ourselves, our communities, and our world, while advocating for an equitable future.

Download a copy of the Food Education Standards


Introduction to the Standards

It is important that students receive education about the cultivation and preparation of food and how to connect to food’s role in our culture, relationships, history, and environment. However, this information is often missing within school curricula. Through our approach to holistic food education, we hope to encourage students to develop the critical thinking skills necessary to inform healthy choices by building on the knowledge that students already have about their food. Schools are an ideal setting for the integration of food education into an academic setting, enriching the core curricular areas and further encouraging critical thinking in a manner both tangible and applicable to students’ daily lives.  Beyond schools, families and communities can play a role in providing food education to young people and supporting classroom-based learning. These Standards provide a straightforward framework for all stakeholders to integrate this learning into young people’s lives. 


Development of the Standards

Beginning in 2014, a set of 9 Food Education Standards were drafted by the Pilot Light staff. Recognizing the need for diverse perspectives and areas of expertise, we committed to hosting the first Food Education Summit in 2017, which convened 25 experts and community members in Chicago to further develop these Standards. In preparation, participants completed surveys about priorities for food education, which, during the two-day Summit, were refined through consensus-building activities into a list of standards and accompanying, age-appropriate K–12 competencies. The resulting Standards and competencies encompass 31 themes, the most commonly endorsed being food choice, health, food production, food access, and culture. The FES were then reviewed and revised by a team of teachers through a series of 3 follow-up meetings, along with online blog feedback, and eventually condensed from 9 Standards to the final 7 outlined in this document.

Through this process of consensus-building with experts from multiple disciplines, as well as centering the perspective of community members and teachers, the Pilot Light FES provide evidenced-based standards that can be used across different school and community sociodemographics to further the reach of the Pilot Light educational model.


Understanding the Standards

Developed to maximize the educational benefit within the classroom, the Food Education Standards complement young people’s food and nutrition knowledge, behaviors, skills, and attitudes already occurring in homes and communities and serve as a holistic definition of food education. 

1. Food connects us to each other.

The Why: By sharing food with others, we connect as humans and learn more about one another’s experiences and identities. 

2. Foods have sources and origins.

The Why: By honoring and acknowledging the land and people who grow and cultivate food, we can better understand the context and stories of cultures and trace their movements over time.

3. Food and the environment are interconnected.

The Why: By recognizing food (in all its forms) as a part of an ecosystem, we can analyze the interdependence of all living organisms on one another for energy and better address the effects humans have on the environment.

4. Food behaviors are influenced by external and internal factors.

The Why: By identifying internal and external factors that influence food choices, we can think critically about our own individual food behaviors while taking into account environmental, social, and emotional factors that urge us to eat or dictate our access to food. 

5. Food impacts health.

The Why: By building knowledge around how different foods interact with the body to sustain us, we can identify the benefits of nutrient-dense foods and their effects on our bodies and minds.

6. We can make positive and informed food choices. 

The Why: By experiencing autonomy over our bodies with access to nutritious and vibrant food, we are empowered to make positive and informed food choices in our lives.

7. We can advocate for food choices and changes that impact ourselves, our communities, and our world.

The Why: By making our own food choices heard and centering the voices of young people, we can help young people build an equitable food future that is their own.


Utilizing the Standards

The Standards documents were designed by a team of teachers knowledgeable in Pilot Light’s food education model to provide detailed guidelines for curriculum development, instruction, and assessment of food education in the classroom.

Each Standard is divided into measurable competencies by grade level bands: K–2, 3–5, 6–8, and 9–12. Within each grade-level band, examples of parallel cross-curricular learning standards have also been identified to assist teachers in lesson development. Additionally, each Standard provides grade-band appropriate examples of real-world experiences, along with sample lesson plans for reference and inspiration.


Authors and Acknowledgements

Teacher Development Team

  • Vicki Drewa, Ray Elementary
  • Chandra Garcia-Kitch, Ray Elementary
  • Charles Rosentel, Pritzker College Prep
  • Luke Albrecht, Ray Elementary
  • Gabriel Hoerger, Disney II Elementary
  • Irene Metropulos, Disney II Elementary
  • Amy Peterson, Disney II Elementary
  • Richard Schrishuhn, Pritzker College Prep
  • Kristine Wilber, Disney II Elementary


Participants from the Food Summit:

  • John Allegrante, PHD, Professor, Teachers College at Columbia University
  • Whitney Bateson, MPH, RD, Director of Nutrition and Wellness, Chartwells K12
  • Shari Berland, MPA, Education Consultant
  • Deborah Burnet, MD, MA, Section Chief, General Internal Medicine, University of Chicago;
  • Medicine Vice-Chair for Faculty Development, University of Chicago
  • Bogdana Chkoumbova, Chief of Schools, Network 10 CPS
  • Chandra Garcia-Kitch, Pilot Light Teacher, Chicago Public Schools
  • William Hook, Principal, Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences
  • Tynisha Jointer, LCSW, M.Ed, Behavioral Health Specialist, Chicago Public Schools
  • Pam Koch, EDD, RD, Executive Director, Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy
  • Research; Associate Professor, Columbia University
  • David K. Lohrmann, PHD, MCHES, Professor and Chair, Indiana University School of Public Health
  • Matthias Merges, Co-Founder, Pilot Light Chefs; Chef/Owner, Folkart Restaurant Management
  • Erin Meyer, MS, RD, Executive Director, Spence Farm Foundation
  • Jeanne Nolan, Founder and President, Organic Gardener Ltd.
  • Joshua Perkins, Regional Executive Chef, Chartwells
  • Joann Peso M.Ed, RD, LDN, CHES, Director of Nutrition, Chicago Department of Public Health
  • Charles Rosentel, World History Teacher, Pritzker College Prep
  • Marshall Shafkowitz, Executive Dean, Washburne Culinary & Hospitality Institute
  • Alan Shannon, Midwest Public Affairs Director, USDA
  • Stephanie Shapiro-Berkson, Lecturer, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Lindsey Shifley, Super Ambassador, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution
  • Jim Slama, CEO, Family Farmed/Good Food EXPO
  • Tony Quartaro, Culinary Director, Apple Wise
  • Michael Quinn, PHD, Sr. Research Scientist and Social Psychologist, Dept of Medicine, UChicago
  • Carolyn Sutter, PHD, Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • Jennifer Wildes, PHD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Neuroscience; Director, Eating Disorders Program, University of Chicago Medicine & Biological Sciences
  • Katie Wilson, PHD, SNS, President, KtConsulting



  • Pilot Light
  • Derek Douglas,  Vice President for Civic Engagement and External Affairs, University of Chicago Office of Civic Engagement
  • Jennifer Nudo, Student Assistant, The Community Programs Accelerator at the University of Chicago
  • Ryan Priester, Director of The Community Programs Accelerator at the University of Chicago
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