Partnership Overview

The Patachou Foundation + Vanguard Collegiate

Jointly, The Patachou Foundation and Vanguard Collegiate have joined forces to re-imagine the school cafeteria and address the most pressing needs of the youth in the Haughville neighborhood.

The Patachou Foundation provided scratch-made, nutritious and delicious food options to Vanguard’s scholars daily (distributed during times of e-learning due to COVID-19). High-quality food in schools should not be confined to those schools who can pay for it. Of course, this is a systemic inequality that only deepens health and academic statistics that are stacked against students in under-appreciated zip codes. The Patachou Foundation is also collaborating with teachers to provide support inside their classrooms for food literacy and urban agriculture education.

Crossroads Education Foundation

Crossroads Education Foundation’s goal is to provide equitable access to education by seeding innovation and removing students' barriers both inside and outside of the classroom. Food insecurity plays a significant role in a child’s health and can negatively impact their educational well-being. Families often rely on the food that schools serve. With schools going to virtual learning during COVID-19, these families and students no longer had access to that food, thus creating an urgent need.

IU Health/Riley

A research team from IU Health/Riley is studying the effects of these meals, and the environment in which they are served, on eating behavior, attitudes towards specific ingredients, as well as drawing conclusions for what a human-centered school cafeteria (with youth and parents voices) will be for future implementation of this program. 

Grants Utilized

IU Health Community Impact Investment Fund

This fund was established to address the social issues affecting health outcomes across the state.  Indiana University Health awarded grants across the state to organizations working to address community needs brought on by COVID-19.

The United Way of Central Indiana (UWCI) Innovation Grant

Early COVID research into community and food distribution was funded by the UWCI. This helped develop Crossroads Education Foundation's understanding of the needs of the community in regards to food and also securing education and other types of social services during the time of COVID.

The Uplift Produce Grant

Uplift Produce offers leafy greens that are non-GMO, pesticide-free, and sustainably grown.  Their produce is delivered fresh to market within hours of being harvested.  As a result, this maximizes nutrients for the consumer. 

The Uplift Produce grant is helping Crossroads Education Foundation deliver 200 lbs of the most healthy (on the market) lettuce and leafy greens to the partners established through the Indiana University Health CIIF fund.  Crossroads Education Foundation has operationalized the food delivery to the most underserved students in Indianapolis while also operationalizing outcomes-based research with the health care industry to understand the impact to delivering healthy foods to under-resourced communities. 

The grant support allowed The Patachou Foundation to provide over 10,000 scratch-made meals (breakfast and lunch) through December 2020 to over 80 students on Indianapolis’ west side where 97% of students live at or below poverty indicators.


This food security is critical for student success, particularly during the pandemic, where students have been learning from home and the pre-existing economic disparities in our community have been exacerbated by the economic fallout. 


The IU Health research team, using the REAIM framework, has conducted baseline research via online surveys and focus groups, which will provide meaningful guidance for future study and program design. Baseline data has anecdotally highlighted the importance of presentation/appeal and social environment for fruit and vegetable consumption: two points that will be explored further by The Patachou Foundation’s culinary team throughout the school year. Adults in this evaluation are motivated to have their voices amplified in their children’s school food menu design. More details and comparative data will be available later this school year.

Through the funding received from IU Health Foundation, we have established a collaboration between Crossroads Education Foundation, Vanguard Collegiate, Purdue University, Patachou Foundation, and Nutrition researchers from IU health, IU School of Public health, and IU School of Medicine, to address the dietary deficiencies amongst low-income middle school students receiving education at Vanguard Collegiate.   Our multi-pronged approach to address these dietary deficiencies is a departure from more traditional approaches which provide low-cost meals to students with limited consideration for the nutritional quality of the meal or the students preferences.  Instead of relying on prescriptive, top-down dietary approaches, our team of accomplished experts is focusing on creating a user-centered experience where students are directly engaged to provide feedback on the meals they are receiving from Patachou Foundation.  Within this program, Patachou Foundation provides frozen scratch made meals (see sample weekly menus) that students are instructed to thaw and eat within three days. With each meal, they are provided with forms where they can provide feedback on the meals.  They are also invited to participate in regularly scheduled focus groups where they can discuss their typical dietary habits and preferences. 

This feedback is then provided to the chefs at Patachou to incorporate into future meals.  In addition to seeking feedback from students who are consuming the meals, focus groups are currently being held with parents of the students to better understand their perspectives and suggestions for improvement as they are frequently overseeing the consumption of these meals as Vanguard has not been able to reopen due to COVID-19 restrictions.   This comprehensive approach has already revealed several concerning trends highlighting student preferences for high fat snacks and sugary sodas as opposed to a more nutritious diet which is freshly prepared.  This feedback has already been used to inform the implementation of additional strategies to improve the palatability of school meals while preserving the nutritional quality. 

Furthermore, with Patachou foundation’s growing investment, expertise, and capacity to provide nutritious meals to low-income students in Indianapolis, the learnings from this effort will be replicated and scaled to additional inner-city schools as Patachou completes construction of additional kitchens to prepare scratch made meals for children. 

Following is a sample of the menus sent to families.


The COVID-19 pandemic had a compounding impact on students and families across the country. Not only did the students and schools have to adjust to a new way of learning, but they also had to navigate how to meet one of their most fundamental needs, food. 

Through IU Health’s Community Impact Investment Fund, Crossroads Education Foundation had an opportunity to understand the food needs of under-resourced students, families, and communities. The research provided through the fund allowed Crossroads Education Foundation to operationalize food delivery to under-resourced students in Indianapolis. 

Additionally, through the partnership with the Patachou Foundation, students were able to have a hands-on experience of how their food would be grown. 

Vanguard—"Getting Our Hands Dirty"

Our scholars are always excited to take their learning to the next level. One way we accomplish this at Vanguard, is with our commitment to field trips and hands-on learning outside the classroom. Interactive experiences and experiential learning helps scholars to truly retain their in-class learning. The topics come to life — literally! 


Recently our Vanguards went to visit the farm where our school lunch food is grown, Public Greens. Even before we visited in person, our scholars had a virtual visit online. At our first virtual field trip our scholars met our two farm guides, Myriah and Kate, and learned about the different types of bees and insects that live in the garden. Bees and bugs are good, sometimes!


For our second visit, our scholars went to Public Greens farm. There we learned together about composting and the best soil to use for growing vegetables and other items. We learned about when to plant and harvest a garden. And we planted our own small plot! Our Vanguards planted turnips and carrot seeds. 

Public Greens is a modern cafeteria run by chefs with food from farms. Part of the mission of Public Greens is to support and share profits with The Patachou Foundation. The Patachou Foundation is committed to serving nutrient dense, scratch-made meals to children in our community and is our school lunch vendor at Vanguard. Yum!  

Vanguard Collegiate of Indianapolis truly has a strong commitment to learning outside the classroom.