Common Threads, Cooking Skills & World Cuisine

by Common Threads
Nov 12, 2012

Cooking Skills & World Cuisine - November 2012

Dixon students are excited to start cooking!
Dixon students are excited to start cooking!

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:

  • 56% of students report eating vegetables only 1 or zero times per day, and a larger percentage surveyed reported not eating any vegetables (26.5%) than reported the proper amount of 3 portions of vegetables per day (24%).
  • Responses for both “Chips” and “Cookies/Cake” were higher across the board than any whole grains, with almost half of students (48%) reporting no consumption of whole grains in the previous day.
  • When looking at a healthy plate of food, almost half of students (48%) chose a plate where fruits and vegetables made up only 1/4 of the plate, with 40% of students choosing a plate where protein was 1/2 of their meal.
  • More children say they have never tried a bell pepper (30%) than say they like to eat them (26%), and less than half of children responded favorably about avocados, spinach, sweet potatoes, onions, or tomatoes.
  • More than 60% of students strongly agree that they enjoy cooking, but that number is cut almost in half (33%) when children as asked if it is easy for them to cook at home.

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:

  • How can I get more green vegetables into my family’s diet?
    • From hiding it in smoothies and lasagnas to perking up greens with a little lemon juice, there are a million ways to get greens on your plate.
  • What is the best way to get my children to stop eating junk food?
    • The most effective way to eliminate bad snacking is just to not have it in the home.  Never ration junk food or use it as a reward – you only increase its desirability.
  • What are some new ways I can cook chicken that are healthier?
    • Baking and grilling are always best.
  • Why is eating healthier so much more expensive?
    • It isn’t!  Shopping for seasonal fruits and vegetables and cooking at home are two of the best ways to keep costs down.

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.

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!

Chef Sean from NoMi with the Bradwell Students
Chef Sean from NoMi with the Bradwell Students



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Common Threads

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

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