Common Threads, Cooking Skills & World Cuisine

by Common Threads
Common Threads students cooking!
Common Threads students cooking!

 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.

  • We continued our formalization of Parent Outreach meetings, holding two per location per session.
  • We piloted Parent/Child Classes (next year to be termed “Family Classes”) in Chicago. These classes give an extended opportunity for families to learn cooking collaboratively.
  • We continued to revise our Cooking Skills & World Cuisine curriculum, refining recipes and choices to best inspire and meet the needs of our students. We also created the “passport,” a full-color interactive workbook that the students follow during the ten-week course and retain at the end of the course. Students also receive copies of Common Threads’ self-published Eat the World cookbook.
  • Session fees ($1,000 per ten-week session) were collected from program partners (i.e. schools and community centers) in Chicago to minimally offset program costs and to increase partner commitment to the program. Individual students who come from low-income households (98%) participate in our program for free.
  • We continued to develop our Manners Matter classes, originated in 2010. Over 600 students in Chicago attended a delicious lunch at Carnivale Restaurant where they enjoyed a meal while learning about table manners. Each session, all of our Chicago after-school program partners were invited to attend. The children were encouraged to interact with their peers, promoting tolerance and respect among children of diverse backgrounds. This opportunity gave students a wonderful chance to practice conversations with new people, an important life skill, while learning that manners is less about which fork to use and more about respecting others around us.

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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Organization Information

Common Threads

Location: Chicago, IL - USA
Website: http:/​/​​
Project Leader:
Kristen Baxter
Development Assistant
Chicago, IL United States

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