This fall I spend my Wednesday afternoons volunteering for a great organization who's work and mission I wholly believe in, anddd it is a blast. Common Threads, a Chicago based nonprofit, has the mission "to educate children on the importance of nutrition and physical well-being, and to foster an appreciation of cultural diversity through cooking. We help bridge cultural boundaries and strengthen our global family by teaching children about their similarities and differences in the warm comfort of the kitchen: Through the simple process of preparing and sharing a nutritious meal, children who participate in our programs learn to connect with their bodies, their neighbors, and their world in bite-sized lessons." How well said!
While in grad school in Chicago I interned in their offices and also volunteered at a kitchen on the South Side. Childhood obesity and overall wellness, especially in underserved populations, is a huge interest of mine. Children who qualify for free-lunch in grades 5-8 may participate in Common Threads at partnership schools in Chicago, DC, LA, and Miami. The people that work in both in the head office and at the satellite locations are tremendous and I have yet to volunteer my time for a non profit that is more well run. I know it's sometimes part of the ride, but I become frustrated when I show up and then there is little direction, as is sometimes the case when one volunteers. Organization is the name of the game here. Each week (for 12 weeks) the children prepare a nutritious, and low-cost meal from a different country and then eat family style at the end of class. The kids also learn about healthy vs. unhealthy foods, portion sizes, etc. Each class is led by a chef-instructor with the help of 4-5 volunteers. Recently Common Threads expanded to offer etiquette field trips and also have garden classes in some locations.
Founded in 2003 by Oprah's former chef, Art Smith, and Linda Novick O'Keefe, the premise is on the mark and the love is there. All in all it is a wonderful organization that I am proud to contribute my time towards. If you're in one of their cities, look them up. Also, they have fun fundraising dinners and events, as local chefs from fabulous restaurants donate their time, skills, and tasty treats.
Next Tuesday evening is Miami World Festival! It is Common Threads' signature event in Miami. If you're in town and free, I highly recommend you snag a ticket while they're still available.