Common Threads is just beginning to set out on a new spring semester of Cooking Skills and World Cuisine classes, and we are larger and more effective than ever thanks to the help of so many wonderful sponsors and donors.
This semester we will be offering 53 Cooking Skills and World Cuisine classes: 27 in Chicago, 20 in Miami, 4 in Washington, DC, 1 in Palo Alto, and 1 in Los Angeles. This is in addition to numerous Family Cooking Classes, Garden classes, and our newest initiative, in school nutritional programming called Small Bites. In all, we will be putting on over 125 programs and training more than 100 teachers.
Furthermore, our classes continue to prove their effectiveness in getting kids to make healthier food choices.
Common Threads is forging ahead with our programs and seeking new and efficient ways to expand nutritional education for students across the nation. We seek to be a thought-leader when it comes to new curriculum we are very pleased to be working with such school systems as those in Chicago and Miami which are actively seeking out organizations that can help expand their nutrition, gardening, and general wellness programs.
Exciting things are happening for Common Threads as we head into our 10th year, and we are very thankful for everyone that has been and will continue to be a part of our sustained success in combating obesity and promoting healthy lifestyles.
That is all for this quarter. Thank you so much for your donations, and be sure to check back soon to see how your generosity is helping Common Threads to expand and reach more children’s lives than ever before!
Common Threads and the Cooking Skills and World Cuisine classes are now in full swing for the fall semester. We’ve hit a few bumps along the way (CPS Teachers Strike, Hurricane Sandy), but the kids are cooking up a storm in Chicago, Miami and Washington D.C.
Common Threads is very happy to have on board all of our new school partners and students, with 15 classes in Chicago, 6 in Miami, and 4 in DC. Even more exciting are our upcoming expansion efforts, with significant additions to our classes coming for 2013 in Miami and Chicago.
While we will not have final data on our current classes until December, Common Threads wanted to share with you a snapshot of what we are up against when it comes to getting kids back in the kitchen and eating healthy:
The obesity crisis makes it evident that more nutritional education is needed in this country, but it is numbers like those above that keep us dedicated to delivering not just knowledge, but hands-on, experiential learning for our students. Actually getting to prep, cook, and taste fresh and nutritious ingredients and recipes is what helps us to make lasting impacts in our students’ lives.
Another key component of our fall programs just finished up, the Parent Outreach meetings. Once per session at each class site we conduct an informational meeting for the parents of all of our students, helping them to bring healthy habits, recipes, and techniques into their own homes. We recognize that until we can change things at home, our impact on students’ lives is not complete. Here are some of our frequently asked questions from parents, with some responses from our parent materials:
Thanks to a generous donation from Quaker, all parents that come to our meetings this semester are receiving a tutorial on making healthy apple-cinnamon oatmeal, and leaving the session with some free oats. We have already heard back from a number of families that oatmeal is becoming the new norm in their household, whether it is fresh-made every morning, or cooked in batches and incorporated into a delicious banana-oatmeal smoothie!
Some of the most fun this semester has also included some outside help. Common Threads is extremely thankful for the local support it gets from a number of high profile chefs from the area’s best restaurants. It’s a wonderful way for them to show give back, and the kids are always excited and full of questions. Common Threads would like to thank: Ranjana Barghava, Vegetarian Indian Cooking Class; Terry Fucik, Dirk’s Fish; Toni Roberts, C-House; Cecelia Hamilton, Heartfelt Catering; Sarah Levy, S. Levy Foods; Jessica Carney, GT Fish & Oyster; Sean Pharr, NoMI; Fallon Fleyshman Morgan, Lifeway Foods, Inc.
As the spring semester wore down into summer, Common Threads was able to collect even more data from our students, parents, and families. We have found that 3 months after a student completes Cooking Skills and World Cuisine:
These are encouraging results that demonstrate the effectiveness of our program. Common Threads knows it needs to continue impacting the lives our students and families, making sure they solidify and continue these positive behaviors after they graduate our Cooking Skills and World Cuisine program.
With this in mind, the Common Threads team strives to ensure that summer, though a quieter time for Common Threads’ Cooking Skills and World Cuisine classes, is an active and engaging season for our students and their families.
Common Threads keeps summer fun, involved, and nutritious by partnering with other community organizations to offer a variety of events for students and families to learn about food, themselves and the world around them.
Twenty of our most dedicated students, whom we lovingly refer to as our “Small Threads”, gathered for a summer cooking and nutrition camp, where they held competitions, learned new nutritional lessons every day, practiced yoga, and helped Common Threads develop a plan to celebrate the upcoming National Food Day. We feel it is vital to get the input of children into how they would better their own food and communities.
Many other students took part in our garden classes with their parents and siblings. Three sessions hosted 5-7 families each at our community garden on Chicago’s South Side. The Common Threads World Garden flourished this summer and yielded loads of fresh produce and meals for our families and community.
Common Threads has also been able to put on a number of fun, one-time events. Around 70 students and volunteers held a a field day, complete with Olympic style competitions and kickboxing instructions from professional trainers. Fifty students and family members took advantage of a trip to the Shedd Aquarium, complemented by a sustainable sushi making class put on my local chef and fishmonger, Dirk Fucik. Trips were also made to the Chicago Children’s Museum, and the Lincoln Park Zoo. Most recently, we gave our students a chance to give back, as they volunteered and cooked alongside celebrity chefs at an event to raise funds for a longtime organization partner, the Ronald McDonald House. It has been wonderful getting to see our students put their skills to work.
We are now gearing up for fall and ready to roll out a full slate of Cooking Skills and World Cuisine classes to a whole new batch of students. This coming academic year we will again serve at least 1000 students in our after school courses, with hopefully many more than that in new programs that will make their debut in 2012 and 2013, in four cities across the US. We count on the wonderful and generous support of Global Giving to provide these opportunities for students to cook, learn, and grow. Be sure to check back to see what we are up to, and how your donations are funding food, fun, and helping children to discover worlds they never knew existed.
It's been a great spring in Common Threads' Cooking Skills & World Cuisine classes. As our ten-week, after-school, hands-on cooking classes wrap up for the semester, we count that we have reached 480 children across our 29 after-school locations thus far in 2012. That figure outpaces last year by 10%, and rate of growth that is due in no small part to the generosity of those of you who use GlobalGiving.
One particular story demonstrates the impact that Common Threads' nutrition education programming can have on the lives of low-income children and their families. After a seemingly endless day, a single mother picked her son Elijah up from his school in Los Angeles. As they were leaving, she realized she had forgotten her wallet and needed to pick up something for dinner on the way home. Mother and son were both exhausted and hungry, so they searched together for as much change as they could find in the car, their pockets and his backpack. After coming up with nearly $10 in change, the mother suggested hitting the drive-thru of the closest fast food restaurant for a hassle-free solution.
Elijah had a different plan. "Mom, I can make something for us. Let's go to the grocery store," he declared. Curious about what her son was planning, Elijah's mother headed to the closest corner store where they picked up spinach, tomato sauce, onions and rice to combine with some ingredients they had at home. Elijah skillfully used the fresh ingredients to create Egusi Soup, a Senegalese dish he had just learned at Common Threads. Elijah then proceeded to cook the rice so his mother could take leftovers to work the next day.
Continued support from GlobalGiving donors like you will help to ensure that kids like Elijah living in Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, and Washington, DC will be able to step up to the plate in their families and help create a healthier home with their newfound hands-on cooking knowledge. Thank you for your generosity.
Common Threads continued to expand its programming during 2011. 2011 activities included 54 after-school classes in various low-income neighborhoods throughout Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, and Washington, D.C. These after-school classes, in addition to summer camp and parent/child classes resulted in a total of over 1044 children aged eight to twelve being directly served by Common Threads last year alone. In fall 2011 Common Threads operated eighteen hands-on after-school cooking classes each week in Chicago, two in South Los Angeles, four classes in Miami, and four in Washington, D.C. Support from the Annenberg Foundation was essential to sustaining Common Threads’ programming and furthering our national expansion in 2011.
After-school cooking classes were offered at partner sites for two ten-week sessions in 2011, a winter-spring session and a fall session. Over the course of each ten-week Cooking Skills & World Cuisine session, 16 low-income children aged eight to twelve learn basic cooking techniques and life skills. Trained chef instructors teach students how to prepare well-balanced meals using fresh, inexpensive, wholesome ingredients. Each week the curriculum focuses on a different country, and the children cook three to four healthy, ethnic recipes from that specific culture. Our hands-on classes allow children to learn and practice basic cooking skills that they take with them along the ten-week journey
Throughout Chicago programs in 2011, we implemented program enhancements designed to further engage parents and families alongside our students, to help build healthier, happier family units and, ultimately, healthier, stronger communities.
Common Threads works with Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago to measure the impact of our programs. Anticipated outcomes for Common Threads’ Programs in 2012 are expected to support and improve upon key findings from the Program Evaluation released in 2011. Findings thus far have included:
• 90% of students feel they can cook at home using the skills they learned at Common Threads.
• 63% of students use Common Threads recipes at home with their friends and families.
• 99% of parents say their child has asked to cook at home more since beginning Common Threads.
• 90% of parents have seen improvement in their child's self-esteem since starting Common Threads.
• 92% of students want to know more about different cultures since joining Common Threads.
• 62% of parents say their child has expressed more interest in the family eating together since beginning Common Threads
Thank you to everyone who has contributed to our successes as we look forward to a great year of continued growth. Every contribution helps and we want to sincerely thank you for helping us grow to reach more children and families in Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and Washington, D.C.
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