PLATINUM2023

Pilot Light

Feeding Young Minds

aka www.pilotlightchefs.org   |   Chicago, IL   |  pilotlightchefs.org

Mission

Pilot Light's enduring mission is to support students as they learn and advocate for informed choices by bridging the lessons they learn in their classrooms to the foods on their lunch trays, at home, and in their communities. Through our cohesive model for classroom food education, we create and deliver standards-aligned food education lessons that are integrated into instruction in traditional subjects like math, reading, history, and science. With our support, Pilot Light’s community of teachers uses food to support effective and engaging learning in the classroom. Our model builds on students’ knowledge of and experiences with food to demonstrate how food connects us to each other, our communities, and our world, while advancing awareness of food systems and advocating for food equity.

Ruling year info

2012

Executive Director

Alexandra DeSorbo-Quinn

Main address

1516 W Carroll Ave Ste 1

Chicago, IL 60607 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

45-5497499

NTEE code info

Other Food, Agriculture, and Nutrition N.E.C. (K99)

Community Health Systems (E21)

Youth Development Programs (O50)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Blog

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Despite the success of programs like "Let's Move", persistent health, education, and other inequities persist in this country - especially in communities of color. Pilot Light believes and research shows that a healthy relationship with food is part of students' cognitive and social emotional development, requiring the same rigorous instructional approach that we use for academic development. And it is this healthy relationship with food that is the key to lifelong wellness, connections to each other, and deeper understanding of the world around us.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Curriculum Development

Since 2010, Pilot Light has partnered teachers and chefs to develop lessons that prioritize learning about food in classrooms and integrate with standards-aligned lessons in core subjects. Our model is grounded in the belief that having an informed relationship with food is part of students’ cognitive and social emotional development, requiring the same rigorous instructional approach that is used for academic development.
Pilot Light lessons are aligned with state and Pilot Light's Food Education standards and meet objectives for student outcomes related to acquisition of food knowledge and skills. As a result, students build on their existing food knowledge as they develop a full set of developmentally- and culturally-appropriate academic, cognitive, and social-emotional skills.
To date, more than 15,000 children have experienced a Pilot Light lesson.

Population(s) Served
Children
Adolescents
Low-income people
Infants and toddlers

While programs like “Let’s Move” targeted the nation’s obesity epidemic by focusing on exercise and nutrition, no Food Education Standards (FES) were in place to build the skills and knowledge students need to promote healthy relationships with food. So, in 2017, to improve the health and wellness of America’s children, Pilot Light convened a national Summit of multidisciplinary experts to develop food education standards that provide policymakers, schools, and health agencies with the tools and guidelines they need to affect systemic change. Over the next year, through a process of thought partnership and consensus-building, teachers, community members, and interdisciplinary experts created the FES, and Pilot Light released them in September 2018.
The FES have proven relevant across school and community socio-demographics to further the reach of food education. They offer a straightforward framework for all stakeholders to integrate food education throughout the school day, and other organizations have begun to use the standards to drive their own holistic goals for child nutrition and development.

Through the establishment of readily available, research-based Pilot Light Food Education Standards, students across the nation can build on existing food literacy skills and knowledge to advocate for food equality.

Population(s) Served

Schools are the ideal place to deliver food education, but time, funding, and resources are tight, so Pilot Light partners directly with teachers in grades PreK-12 to integrate food education into curriculum. Through our year-long Food Education Fellowship, teachers receive stipends and 20 hours of award-winning professional development and 1:1 coaching from Pilot Light to build their confidence and capacity to deliver food education in classrooms. Fellows commit to a) deliver food-based lessons to their students at least 30 times during the school year; b) create new lessons and content for the program to share with other teachers; c) develop evaluation plans based off unique their student and school communities; d) become leaders in the field of food education; and e) collaborate with chefs, farmers, and other community and school members to host virtual and in-person field trips.
The knowledge and skills teachers develop during their Fellowship year benefit the community for years to come. They consistently use food education to engage students and make classroom connections while finding new and different ways to teach in an ever-changing environment while fostering health literacy, a key social determinant of health.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth

To disseminate our lessons and to activate schools and teachers everywhere around the power of food education, Pilot Light’s Food Education Center offers online access to our PreK-12th grade instructional materials. Teachers across the country can now integrate food education across a range of content areas, thereby advancing student knowledge and wellness. We offer full lesson plans for elementary aged children through high school that include curricular information, background knowledge, recommended anchor texts, and supporting food experience instructions.
Our “plug and play” Pilot Light Anywhere curriculum is designed for e-learning and classroom use and makes it easy to deliver literacy-based food education for grades Pre-K through 12th grade. And families can access Family Meal videos to promote food education at home.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth
Ethnic and racial groups

Where we work

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of teachers trained

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Food Education Fellowship

Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

These are annual figures. A total of 270 teachers have been trained by Pilot Light to date including 76 who have been awarded full-year Food Education Fellowships.

Number of children receiving food education from classroom-based Food Education Fellows

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Adolescents, Children, Preteens, Low-income people, Working poor

Related Program

Food Education Fellowship

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

These are annual figures. The Fellowship started in the 2019-20 school year. The 665 figure for the 2020-21 school year is lower for reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Number of children who have the skills necessary to maintain personal health

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Adolescents, Children, Infants and toddlers, Preteens, Economically disadvantaged people

Related Program

Food Education Fellowship

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

These figures represent the estimated number of children reached each year through our Fellowship, Food Education Center, and other programs. To date, over 20,000 students have been reached.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

With funding and resources for food education limited in schools, Pilot Light breaks down barriers to the important concepts and connections in food education by integrating it into academic instruction and building students’ food knowledge, attitudes, and skills so they have informed relationships with food. Our vision is to bring food education to every child in every school and, in the process, create a world of knowledgeable and engaged changemakers for an equitable, sustainable, and accessible food future.

In a Pilot Light classroom, food isn't just sustenance; it offers insight into culture, tells a little-known story about migration, anchors the development of spice trade routes, or determines the economics of the colonial past. It's a way to understand how the foods we eat make up who we are. And, importantly, by sharing these stories, it offers an ability to connect with and learn more about one another.

Pilot Light aims to use food education to bring people together and ignite a fire of compassion, empathy, and optimal holistic development for our kids.

Pilot Light achieves its mission through four distinct strategies: 1) a food education curriculum designed by teachers, chefs, and behavioral experts delivered by classroom teachers and partner chefs; 2) the Food Education Fellowship, where Pilot Light builds teachers' capacity to deliver the curriculum; 3) the Food Education Center where teachers everywhere can access lessons, demonstration videos, and other resources; and 4) the Pilot Light Food Education Standards which provide a blueprint for measuring the impact of food education and drive national conversation and policy around food education.

Food Education Curriculum
All Pilot Light lessons are developed with these core values in mind:
-Encourage curiosity about the connections between food, wellness, and community.
-Demonstrate and inspire empathy and respect for all through our focus on cultural humility and community empowerment.
-Spread knowledge by teaching with the intent that students will teach others what they learn.
-Ignite excitement for learning by integrating food into topics relevant to students’ interests.

Food Education Fellowship
Through our Food Education Fellowship, a cohort of teachers in Chicago and across the country receive monthly professional development and stipends to deliver food education lessons in classrooms weekly, fostering deep student engagement, connection, and learning. Fellows also create new lessons, collect data on the program, and become Food Education leaders in their school communities.

Food Education Center
To disseminate our lessons and to activate schools and teachers everywhere around the power of food education, the Food Education Center offers online access to instructional resources. Teachers in Chicago and across the country can now download lessons and integrate food education across a range of content areas, thereby advancing student knowledge and wellness. Full Pre-K to 12th grade lessons include curricular information, background knowledge, recommended anchor texts, and supporting food experience instructions. The “plug and play” Pilot Light Anywhere curriculum is designed for e-learning and classroom use and makes it easy to deliver literacy-based food education for all grade levels. And families can access "Family Meal" videos to promote home-based food education.

Food Education Standards
Before 2018, there wee no Food Education Standards to dictate the skills and knowledge students need to promote healthy relationships with food. Pilot Light dedicated time and resources to align food education standards with academic standards and provide K-12 developmental guidance. The resulting national set of Food Education Standards is critical to the future health of our nation's youngest generation and offers us the opportunity to define and standardize a new field and re-imagine what should be prioritized in K-12 education to advance children's health nationwide.

Pilot Light's four founding chefs are active and engaged members of our Board of Directors and remain passionately committed to the development of a long-term plan to deliver food education to every child in every school. Joining them on the Board of Directors are a Pilot Light teacher and professionals from the business, financial, and education sectors.

Pilot Light's Executive Director, Alexandra DeSorbo-Quinn, joined the organization in 2014 as its first Executive Director. Ms. DeSorbo-Quinn came to Pilot Light from the Columbia University Medical Center where she was responsible for managing operations of two research trials funded by a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In this capacity, she was required to manage Institutional Review Board compliance, data collection, and grant budgets over the project's duration.

Our leadership team’s vision and understanding of the need to scale our model led us to expand our program offering to include the Food Education Fellowship (professional development for teachers), and the Food Education Center, an online library of food education lessons, videos, and other resources. The launch of these initiatives in 2018 and 2019 positioned Pilot Light well for the pivot to remote instruction during the COVID-19 crisis.

Our commitment to evaluation and iteration is strong. Pilot Light sets targets for each year based on a five-year strategic plan that was formulated by the Board of Directors in 2018 and which is grounded in six pillars. The Board and staff collaborate on each year’s annual plan and track progress monthly using a standardized metrics dashboard which was developed by our strategy committee. The KPIs that are collected on the dashboard are reported to and reviewed by the Board to inform decision making. These KPIs are reviewed and re-evaluated annually to reflect the evolution of our program model.

Since 2010, Pilot Light has helped children make healthier choices by partnering chefs and teachers to develop curriculum that prioritizes learning about food in schools through standards-aligned lessons in core subjects. Through our proven curriculum, they acquire the knowledge, attitudes, and skills they need to understand the important role food plays in their lives so they can make healthier choices for a lifetime.

By teaching about food - through food – Pilot Light builds children's health agency and knowledge to combat unfair conditions and messaging that can predispose them to unhealthy behaviors. In fact, a recent study found that children who developed cooking skills early in life were more likely as adults to prepare meals with vegetables most days and less likely to consume fast food. Pilot Light's impact also reaches beyond the classroom. 71% of Pilot Light students report that they ask their parents for healthier food after participating in Pilot Light.

But our goals reach beyond teaching kids about food. Through our approach, students in Pilot Light classroomsx further their journey toward becoming changemakers within their communities. The shared experience of food highlights what we have in common and leads to increased empathy and enhanced and deeper teaching and learning in the classroom.

To date, more than 20,000 children have experienced Pilot Light at school, and 270 teachers have been trained in the delivery of Pilot Light's food education curriculum. In the coming years, Pilot Light will focus on enhancing our proven curriculum with the addition of new lessons to the Food Education Center to facilitate dissemination and deeper engagement. We will also continue to expand the Food Education Fellowship to promote customized and consistent delivery of the curriculum. Finally, we will actively pursue discussions with decision makers that lead to broad-based adoption of the Food Education Standards.

Financials

Pilot Light
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

Pilot Light

Board of directors
as of 06/17/2023
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Matthias Merges

Executive Chef, Folkart Restaurant Management

Shari Berland

Consultant, Public Education Reform

Jason Hammel

Chef and Owner, Lula Café and Marisol; Jean Banchet Award Winner

Justin Large

Executive Chef, Guildhall

Paul Kahan

Executive Chef and Partner, One Off Hospitality, James Beard Award Winner

Frank Mahoney

Director of Business Strategy, Morgan Stanley

Chandra Garcia-Kitch

Teacher, Chicago Public Schools

Tracy Boychuk

Founding Creative & Business Director, The Roof Crop, Runner Collective

Tynisha Jointer

Behavioral Health Specialist, Chicago Public Schools

Afina Lockhart

Regional Instructional Specialist, Phalen Leadership Academies

Leah Gordon

Attorney, Legislative Policy Specialist

Renu Kalkani

Principal Faculty, Corporate Innovation, Singularity University

Deborah Fullerton

Senior Vice President of Marketing, Communications and Consumerism, Prisma Health

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 2/7/2023

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Female

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

Transgender Identity

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

No data