Sample Grant Language


The Charlie Cart Project provides a unique and scalable educational program that enables hands-on learning about food, nutrition, and health in any setting. With a comprehensive set of turnkey resources – including a compact mobile kitchen cart on wheels, utensils and cooking equipment, lesson plans, training, and related supports – the Project removes obstacles to implementing critically needed food education and cooking interventions in schools.     

Mission and Objectives

The Charlie Cart Project’s mission is to enable hands-on food education to youth in schools across the country.  The organization’s objectives are as follows:

  • Improve eating behaviors by providing knowledge and skills for lifelong healthy eating habits

  • Support engaged learning across disciplines by integrating cooking skills with core academic content

  • Support academic success by providing a stimulating learning environment for all types of learners

Program Need  

Obesity remains one of the most critical health issues affecting young people in the United States. In 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.[i] Research predicts that one in every three children will develop diabetes, and among Hispanic and black children, the rate is nearly one in two.[ii] Our child obesity epidemic has dire consequences for the health and well being of millions of children, as well as the health of the nation as a whole. Skyrocketing health care costs, diminished productivity, and lower wages and incomes are among the potential future repercussions, unless effective, scalable obesity prevention interventions are identified and implemented. The decline in cooking skills among US families is believed to be a key factor in the rise of child obesity, as the loss of cooking knowledge, confidence, and skills limits families’ ability to prepare healthy foods at home and to pass cooking knowledge on to the next generation.[iii] Concurrently, at the age when children are forming their lifelong eating habits, they are exposed, on average, to tens of thousands of advertisements per year marketing non-nutritious foods, which in turn influences their product preferences.[iv] Clearly, there is an urgent need for impactful educational interventions, beginning at a young age.

Food education programs are recognized as an effective prevention and approach for children suffering from and at risk of diet-related disease.[v]. Further, there is ample evidence that demonstrates the impact of food education programs featuring a cooking component.  Cooking interventions have been shown to result in increases in children’s willingness to try fruits and vegetables;[vi], (7,8) children’s increased fruit and vegetable consumption; (6,8) children’s increased preferences for fruits, vegetables, or both; (9,10) as well as changes in children’s attitudes toward cooking and food. (9) Yet, while the reach of food education organizations have significantly expanded over the last decade -- including for example, FoodCorps, The National Farm to School Network, and California’s Harvest of the Month -- none have the capacity to focus on cooking instruction and curriculum. 

This growing body of research suggests that learning to taste and prepare nutritious foods can affect significant change in children’s behaviors and attitudes. Yet even in schools where garden-based food education programs are in place, cooking is typically too difficult and expensive for mainstream adoption. The time and expense of building out a kitchen facility or creating a kit and cooking plans has proved prohibitive in many settings. Targeted programs such as Wellness in the Schools, Cooking with Kids, Inc., and the national FoodCorps program point to the growing demand for cooking education in school settings. Yet despite the rise in this type of program offering, no organization yet addresses the practical barriers to cooking in schools.

The Charlie Cart Project provides a unique and practical solution that removes these obstacles and increases the reach of the food education and cooking interventions that are already in schools. The Project offers a low-cost strategy that enriches schools that already have school gardens or limited cooking programs, and brings hands-on cooking experiences to schools that are getting started with food education programming.

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[i] Ogden C., Carroll M., Kit B., & Flegal, K. (2014). Prevalence of childhood and adult obesity in the United States, 2011-2012. Journal of the American Medical Association, 311(8), 806-814.

[ii] Diabetes Association 63rd Scientific Sessions, New Orleans, June 13–17, 2003; K. M. Venkat Narayan, M.D., chief of the diabetes epidemiology section, CDC; Judith Fradkin,M.D., director of diabetes, endocrinology and metabolic diseases, NIDDK.

[iii] Smith,L., Ng, S., & Popkin, B. (2013). Trends in US home food preparation and consumption: analysis of national nutrition surveys and time use studies from 1965–1966 to 2007–2008. Nutrition Journal, 12(45).

[iv] Wilcox, B., Cantor, J., Dowrick, P., Kunkel, D., Linn, S., & Palmer, E. (2004). Report of the APA Task Force on Advertising and Children: Summary of findings and conclusions. American Psychological Association.

[v] E.g.: Morris, JL & Zidenberg-Cherr, S. (2002). Garden-based nutrition curriculum improves fourth-grade school children's knowledge of nutrition and preferences for some vegetables. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 102(1): 91-93.

- Pothukuchi, K. (2004). Hortaliza: A Youth “Nutrition Garden” in Southwest Detroit. Children, Youth and Environments 14(2):124-155.

- Gatto, N., Ventura, E., Cook, L., Gyllenhammer, L., & Davis, J. (2012). LA Sprouts: A garden-based nutrition intervention pilot program influences motivation and preferences for fruits and vegetables in Latino youth. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 112(6): 913-920.

- Morris, JL & Zidenberg-Cherr, S. (2002). Garden-based nutrition curriculum improves fourth-grade school children's knowledge of nutrition and preferences for some vegetables. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 102(1): 91-93.

[vi] Caraher, M., Seeley, A., Wu, M., & Lloyd, S. (2013). When chefs adopt a school? An evaluation of a cooking intervention in English primary schools. Appetite, 62, 50-9.

7 Gibbs, L., Staiger, P., Johnson, B., Block, K., Macfarlane, S., Gold, L., et al. (2013). Expanding children’s food experiences: the impact of a school-based kitchen garden program. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 45(2), 137–46

8 Quinn, L., Horacek, T., & Castle, J. (2003). The impact of Cookshop on the dietary habits and attitudes of fifth graders. Topics in Clinical Nutrition, 18(1), 42–8.

9 Cunningham-Sabo, L. & Lohse, B. (2013). Cooking with kids positively affects fourth graders’ vegetable preferences and attitudes and self-efficacy for food and cooking. Child Obesity, 9(6), 549–56.

10 Cunningham-Sabo, L., & Lohse, B. (2014). Impact of a school-based cooking curriculum for fourth-grade students on attitudes and behaviors is influenced by gender and prior cooking experience. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 46(2), 110–20.