With help from the Humane Society, Chartwells K12 makes a plant-based push in Rhode Island

The food management company has committed to serving two plant-based entrees monthly and three plant-based sides weekly at schools across the state.
Rhode Island students enjoy Chartwells K12 meals at school
Photo courtesy of Chartwells K12

It started with some healthy competition.

Early in 2020, Chartwells K12 directors and chefs from across Rhode Island came together for a plant-based cooking challenge in the vein of Iron Chef.

“We put everybody in teams and gave them a recipe, and said here make it. And then we did a tasting, and we had them vote on what they liked the best,” says Chartwells K12 Area Director Solange Morrissette.

The competition was courtesy of a then-new partnership between the Humane Society and the Chartwells K12 Rhode Island team.

Since then, the partnership has allowed the Chartwells K12 team to learn about the benefits of plant-based meals and led to it committing to offer more plant-based dishes at the schools it serves in the state.

Building the partnership

After the success of the cooking competition, the team decided to deepen the partnership by getting more Chartwells team members involved.

During fall of 2021, the Humane Society held workshops with hourly employees of Chartwells K12, who learned about the benefits of eating plant-based foods. Afterwards, the employees participated in a similar competition, where they were tasked with creating their own plant-based dishes.  

“The employees had a really good time and then we voted, and we took the two winning recipes from the four sessions and then put them on the menu,” says Morrissette. “So that was kind of us putting our foot in the water.”

At the start of last year, the Chartwells K12 Rhode Island team decided to embrace plant-based food even further, announcing a commitment to serve two plant-based entrees a month and three plant based side dishes every week.

The team kicked off this commitment with a build-your-own poutine-style bar at each of its high schools. Students could select from a variety of produce, including local potatoes and mushrooms, and top their dish with a plant-based cheese sauce made from potatoes, carrots, nutritional yeast and different seasonings. 

“That was really fun,” says Morrissette. “The kids got really into it.”

Resulting menu items

Since the kickoff, Chartwells K12 has continued to follow through on its pledge to serve plant-based dishes.

Offerings have included watermelon poke bowls, lentil sloppy joes, sweet potato and bean chili, and chickpea biryani.

“We also started offering bento boxes with the vegan cheese sauce, and the kids really liked that,” says Morrissette.

As they look to the future, Chartwells K12 hopes to bring back the plant-based cooking competition for staff and are interested in creating one for students as well. In addition, the team is looking to expand the variety of dishes it serves students, who are becoming more eager to try plant-based cuisine, says Morrissette.

“I think, in general, kids are becoming more savvy about eating plant-based foods and eating vegan and vegetarian foods,” she says.



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