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7 Ways Chartwells K12 Helps Create Happy Cafeterias and Healthy Schools

Clackamas Middle College graduate Julia Bressel, the 2021 winner of the Chartwells K12 Culinary Scholarship.
Julia Bressel, winner of the 2021 Chartwells Scholarship.

Today, NCEF is celebrating one of our most generous sponsors, Chartwells K12, which provides North Clackamas Schools with their delicious, nutritious school lunches.

With more than 16,000 associates in 4,500 schools, ranging from large public institutions to small charter and private schools, Chartwells K12 is built on decades of food, education and operational experience driven by top culinary, nutrition, wellness and sustainability talent. Chartwells K12’s goal is to make sure students leave the cafeteria happier and healthier than they came in, by serving food kids love to eat and creating custom dining programs.

NCEF is so grateful to Chartwells for their support. Thanks to Chartwells K12 sponsoring our annual gala each year, NCEF is able to offer a number of programs to NCSD students in Milwaukie, Happy Valley, and Oak Grove, such as college scholarships, subsidized pre-school and after-school programs, Backpack Buddies (which sends supplies home with food-insecure students) and more. Even more impressively, Chartwells offers a $5,000 scholarship each year through NCEF to students in the Sabin-Schellenberg Center Culinary Program who want to pursue certification in Culinary Arts, Nutrition Services or Food Science after high school. Called the Chartwells K12 Culinary Arts Scholarship, it's designed to help students who are passionate about the culinary arts overcome financial barriers.

In addition to being a wonderful community partner, Chartwells is a force for good in North Clackamas and across the United States. These school lunch heroes have helped create thousands of happy cafeterias and healthy schools. Read on to learn more about Chartwells’ work.

1. Chartwells Serves Food that Kids Love

Chartwells K12 has a chef-driven approach to designing school lunches. “Food is at the forefront of everything we do, and by listening to the students we serve every day, we have a unique understanding of what kids really love to eat,” said Chef Peter Gilhooly, Chartwells K12’s Culinary Vice-President. “Our team of chefs is passionate about developing innovative and exciting recipes that not only connect with current food trends, but set them.” In a recent article, Chartwells highlighted all the food trends for kids that they’ll be embracing in 2021, which include breakfast all day, upscale sandwiches like their Roasted Eggplant Provolone Panini, healthy snacks like homemade beet fries and sunbutter banana roll-ups, and creative plant-based offerings, such as Watermelon Edamame Poke Bowls. Wow!

2. Chartwells Promotes Food Sustainability

Through a partnership with Burke County Public Schools in North Carolina, Chartwells K12 runs a program called the Piggy Bank, which gives leftover cafeteria food that can't be donated to a local farm, providing food for animals—and keeping it out of the landfill.

Chartwells also regularly shares food-saving tips on their Facebook page, encouraging their followers to:

  • Save overcooked vegetables by pureeing them and adding them to soup

  • Avoid buying food they won’t use by making a weekly meal plan

  • Revive wilted vegetables by soaking them in ice water for five to 10 minutes

Actionable advice like this can help busy families to cut food waste and make their dinners more delectable.

3. Chartwells Looks Out for Students with Food Allergies

Eight percent of kids in the United States have food allergies. Chartwells K12 safeguards their health by working one-on-one with families to prepare safe and customized meals for students.

In addition, Chartwells K12 has the largest team of registered dietitians in the child nutrition industry. They’re also the first company industry to have their allergen management training courses certified by Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE).

Partnering with FARE helps ensure Chartwells’ culinary training programs remain aligned with the latest advancements in food allergen management—and makes school lunches safer for everyone.

4. Chartwells Shares Culinary Hacks

On their social media accounts, Chartwells often shares tips on how to eat well without sacrificing flavor. From roasting and grilling vegetables to bring out their sweet and smoky flavors to adding no-fat tang via citrus juice or grated citrus peel, Chartwells’ nutritious yet gourmand-oriented cooking hacks are relevant to kids and adults alike.

5. Chartwells Feeds Students Whether School is in Session or Not Did you know that Chartwells served meals to students throughout the pandemic, even when schools weren’t open, through bus deliveries and community pick-up sites?

In fact, Chartwells has served more than 300 million meals since the start of the pandemic. Their staff went above and beyond to make students happy, organizing theme days at pick-up sites, writing jokes on lunch bags, creating songs and dance routines and more.

"They've always been heroes to us, and now the rest of the world has seen why our associates are so important to the lives and wellbeing of students across the country," said Chartwells K12 CEO Belinda Oakley.

6. Chartwells Uses Fresh, Locally Sourced Ingredients Chartwells K12’s leaders believe that great food begins with the best ingredients. Their culinary and nutrition teams are passionate about using fresh, nutritious, minimally processed and locally sourced ingredients.

This approach has garnered Chartwells several awards, including the Best Sandwich Award from Food Management Magazine.

7. Chartwells Encourages Kids to Take Charge of Their Health Kids today are more stressed than ever. While there is no single solution to this issue, the school lunch heroes at Chartwells K12 have developed a fun and engaging new wellness program called Mood Boost, which helps students see the connection between what they eat and how they feel.

Students in hundreds of schools across the country, including North Clackamas School District, have benefitted from the Mood Boost program, which includes new lunch menus, fun activities and a collection of characters called “Moodies.”

The “Moodies” help younger students recognize different moods: Alert, Calm, Confident, Happy, Smart, and Strong. As part of the Mood Boost program, Chartwells serves recipes that prominently feature at least one ingredient that enhances these moods, such as broccoli to increase calm feelings, strawberries to build confidence, chickpeas to promote happiness and so on.

“We had such a fun time coming up with the new recipes for Mood Boost,” said Chef Peter Gilhooly, Chartwells K12’s Culinary Vice-President. “We’re still serving a wide variety of on-trend meals that support healthy eating, now with an added mood-boosting ingredient to help our students feel their personal best.”


Thanks for creating happy cafeterias and healthy schools in the North Clackamas School District, Chartwells! NCEF is honored to work with an organization as giving, creative and forward-thinking as Chartwells K12.

You can learn more about Chartwells K12 and their school lunch programs at


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