Good Food, Good Mood: Why Chartwells K12 is Putting Mood-Boosting Food on Hundreds of School Lunch Menus Across the Country

In the News

Between homework, exams, extracurriculars, family activities and seeing friends, kids are busier than ever – and it’s stressing them out! Add to that the sobering and now commonplace issues hitting the national news cycle, and it’s no wonder a 2018 American Psychological Association study reported Generation Z is significantly more likely to report their mental health as fair or poor, compared to other generations.

While there is no single solution, innovative school dining partner Chartwells K12 has developed a fun and engaging new program called Mood Boost designed to help K12 students make the connection between what they eat and how they feel. Students in hundreds of schools across the country, including Stamford Public Schools in Conn., DeSoto ISD in Texas, Novi Community School District in Mich., and North Clackamas School District in Ore., can now experience the program that introduces new lunch menus, fun activities and a collection of characters called “Moodies” into the cafeteria. Chartwells serves 2 million meals in more than 4,500 schools every day.

“Our goal is to ensure every student leaves the cafeteria happier and healthier than they came in,” said Belinda Oakley, CEO of Chartwells K12. “Launching our new Mood Boost program reinforces that serving up happy and healthy is more than just a tagline to us; it’s at the heart of everything we do for our students.”

For nearly a year, Chartwells chefs and dietitians worked together to create Mood Boost specifically for elementary- and middle-school students. The seven-week program includes new menus that feature exciting and delicious mood-boosting ingredients, in addition to:

  • The “Moodies”, a series of six fun and engaging characters to help younger students recognize their different moods: Alert, Calm, Confident, Happy, Smart, and Strong.
  • Recipes kids love that prominently feature at least one significant ingredient per mood. For example, Raspberries with Chocolate and Basil (Alert); Broccoli Salad with Raisins (Calm); Strawberry Avocado Smoothie (Confident);Citrus Chickpea Salad (Happy); Red Kidney Bean Hummus (Smart); and Portuguese Style Pork Bowl (Strong).
  • Giveaways including collectible trading cards that feature the Moodies, information about key ingredients supporting each mood and recipes kids and families can make at home.

“It’s well established that food affects your physical well-being, and for decades, Chartwells K12 has been teaching students how healthy eating habits develop strong, healthy bodies. Now, new evidence tells us that food also affects mood and mental well-being,” said Margie Saidel, MPH, RD, LDN, VP Nutrition and Sustainability at Chartwells K12. “Today, it’s more important than ever that students can make the connection between what they eat and how they feel.”

Chef Peter Gilhooly, VP Culinary at Chartwells K12, added, “We had such a fun time coming up with the new recipes for Mood Boost. 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. How great is that?”

Through Mood Boost and other innovative programs like Student Choice, Discovery Kitchen, Imperfectly Delicious Produce, hydroponic school gardens, Farm to School initiatives, and much more, Chartwells K12 continues to take school dining to the next level and ensure students leave the cafeteria happier and healthier than they came in.

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