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Common Threads starts culinary program for high school students


Nutritious eating has been a priority since first lady Michelle Obama championed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which President Obama signed into law that year. This changed nutrition standards for the National School Lunch Program by requiring that schools serve more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk more frequently and fewer starchy vegetables or foods high in sodium and trans fat.

Common Threads followed the same message as they educate parents, children, and others with their nutrition-based health program.

Founded by Chef Art Smith, artist Jesus Salgueiro and Linda Novick O’Keefe in 2003 after they spent time cooking for New York families impacted by 9/11, the trio was inspired by the power of food to heal and bring people together to celebrate traditions and culture while enjoying the benefits of healthy, nutritious meals.

Soon, the nonprofit Common Threads was launched, with the first class offered in a church basement in Chicago in March 2004. The organization soon expanded beyond Windy City to include expansion to Miami (2009), New York City (2014), Austin and Pittsburgh (2015), and San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas-Ft. Worth, El Paso and Erie (2018). Today the organization reaches more than 30,000 children, parents, and educators annually through its virtual and in-person cooking and nutrition education programs.

Common Threads’ focus is on impacting Los Angeles County by partnering with different school districts, individual schools, community organizations, and other wellness and health partners to implement its health and wellness program.

Since 2008 Common Threads has worked in different parts of L.A. including Boyle Heights, Inglewood, Huntington Park, and San Fernando Valley. They have reached more than 130,000 students, parents/caregivers, and educators from Pre K to eighth grade. They have cooked and served over 950,000 healthy snacks and meals to the community. They also have engaged over 200 schools and community sites in the Common Threads program.

The Small Bites program focuses on educating kids about nutrition and healthy snacking habits.

Common Threads has also launched a pilot program for high schools teaching students how to build personal nutrition plans and enhance their culinary skills through hands-on classes. This program also exposes kids to healthcare careers through job shadowing and internships.

Programming for adults is also a focus for Common Threads as they have a few programs to help parents and their kids connect and enjoy learning in the kitchen. The caregiver engagement program includes family cooking classes, parent workshops, and virtual grocery store tours.

The Educator professional development offers training for school and after-school professionals.

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