Mars Food's VP of Corporate Affairs reflects on a recent visit with CPS high-school students.

by Caroline Sherman

In January of 2019, organic seed and food company Seeds of Change™ partnered with the Children Fund to award $500,000 to Chicago Public Schools. Since then, the grant has helped CPS schools across Chicago develop lush learning gardens, innovative farm-to-table education programs, substantive professional-development opportunities, farmers markets, and summer gardening jobs for high school students. 

Over the summer, Mars Food—parent company to Seeds of Change™—hosted 15 CPS student interns for a botanical/horticultural program that was funded by the same grant. That program culminated in a student visit to the Mars Food North America headquarters here in Chicago, where students got an in-depth look at jobs in the food industry. 

Caroline Sherman, VP of Corporate Affairs for Mars Food North America, offered the following reflections on the visit.

As a native Chicagoan, I’m incredibly passionate about ensuring every citizen in our city has the same access to opportunities, especially our children. That’s why I’m so proud to have been a part of the Seeds of Change™ team that granted $500,000 to Chicago Public Schools through the Children First Fund for school gardens and educational programs. 

Caroline Sherman and members of Seeds of Change™ pose after their garden build at Walter Dyett High School.

Since the partnership began in January 2019, I’ve been honored to play a direct role in supporting those grants, first by helping to build a new vegetable garden at Walter Dyett High School, and most recently by hosting a group of bright summer interns at the Mars Food North America headquarters. 

During the students’ visit to our office, Mars Associates from a range of departments got to spend time and speak directly with these future titans of the food and agricultural industries, offering them glimpses into many of the career options related to growing, cooking, and enjoying healthy food. 

CPS student interns interviewed Mars employees about their lives and careers.

While the students got a lot of value from their time with Mars Associates, I have no doubt that it’s our Associates who benefitted the most. It was truly a joy to get to know this group of ambition, curious, and highly capable young adults. 

CPS student interns prepared their own lunch in Mars’s fully equipped office kitchen.

The greatest part of the day, at least for me, though I’m sure the students would agree, was lunch. Cooking and eating together can be an incredibly powerful way to learn about and bond with people. Together, we made a delicious, four-course vegetarian meal, featuring plenty of fresh veggies, herbs, and Seeds of Change™ food products. And the interns left with some healthy recipe inspirations to bring back to their families. 

The day ended with a game designed to emphasize the importance of sustainability. This was a perfect way to close out a mentorship day. Through the game, the students could clearly see how everything they are learning about horticulture and botany, including how to sustainably grow and harvest food, relates directly to the broader food industry. 

Sustainability is something Mars has prioritized for years. We are adamant about creating a better world tomorrow through better food today, and sustainability is at the core of that pursuit.  Sustainable growing practices and nutritious food are critical to ensuring the future health of people and the planet for generations to come. 

My reflections on the day would not be complete without mentioning the infectious enthusiasm of these students. Their drive and energy make me proud and optimistic about the future of Chicago. I returned to my day-to-day activities with a renewed inspiration because of the time I got to spend with those 15 CPS students.

Before I end, I’d like to address our student interns directly and say thanks. Thanks for taking an interest in what we do, and thanks for giving us back as much as (or more than) than we gave. I am so excited to see what the future holds for each of you. 

Caroline Sherman (center), CPS student interns, and members of the Seeds of Change™ team celebrate the meal they’ve prepared together.