Agriculture, Food, Nutrition

Common Threads

  • Austin, TX
  • www.commonthreads.org

Mission Statement

The mission of Common Threads is to educate low-income children on the importance of nutrition and physical well-being, empowering them to be agents of change for healthier families, schools, and communities. By providing children with a toolkit of knowledge and skills, we can help prevent childhood obesity and reverse the trend of generations of non-cookers, getting America's kids cooking for life!

Main Programs

  1. Cooking Skills & World Cuisine
  2. Small Bites
  3. Family Cooking Class
  4. Parent Workshops
  5. Healthy Teacher Training
  6. Teacher Cooking Class
Service Areas

Self-reported

National

After 13 years in operation, Common Threads operates in eight cities - Chicago, Austin, New Orleans, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, and Washington, D.C. - and has plans to expand to Pittsburgh in the near future.

ruling year

2003

Principal Officer since 2003

Self-reported

Linda Novick O'Keefe

Keywords

Self-reported

Education, Children, Cooking, Diversity, Nutrition, Culture

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EIN

20-0106847

 Number

4718850685

Contact

Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Nutrition Programs (K40)

IRS Filing Requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Programs + Results

How does this organization make a difference?

Overview

Self-reported by organization

We teach low-income children to cook wholesome and affordable meals because we believe that through our hands-on cooking classes we can help prevent childhood obesity and reverse the trend of generations of non-cookers, while celebrating our cultural differences and the things people all over the world have in common.

Our approach to nutrition education has resulted in measurable outcomes that create a strong foundation for a future of improved personal health. Our programs are working to increase consumption of healthy foods, improve nutrition knowledge and attitudes towards healthy foods, and increase meals eaten at home. Indeed, our 2014-2015 evaluation of our two largest programs - Small Bites and Cooking Skills and World Cuisine - showed that, of students who were able to improve, 62% increased vegetable intake, 76% increased their nutrition knowledge, 87% improved their attitudes towards fruits and vegetables, and 51% increased communication about healthy eating and cooking at home with their families.

Programs

Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Program 1

Cooking Skills & World Cuisine

A dynamic afterschool program taught by a Chef Instructor, these 10-week courses engage students in global exploration through healthy meal preparation. Each class focuses on a different country’s cuisine and culture, while also exposing students to whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and teaching cooking skills. With the support of community volunteers and the Chef Instructor, students learn to follow a recipe and prepare a low-cost, healthy meal. Each class concludes with the celebratory experience of sharing a self-made meal.

Category

Food, Agriculture & Nutrition

Population(s) Served

Children Only (5 - 14 years)

Budget

Program 2

Small Bites

Premier nutrition and cooking education program taught by classroom teachers or trained out‐of­‐school staff. Interactive, hands-on lessons support core content areas with additional extension lessons aligned to Common Core Standards. Consists of 8 lessons and recipes for 3rd – 8th graders offered throughout the school year and summer.

Category

Food, Agriculture & Nutrition

Population(s) Served

Children Only (5 - 14 years)

Budget

Program 3

Family Cooking Class

This afterschool program reaches beyond children by engaging their families in the art of eating well through hands-on learning in the kitchen. In 6 lessons, parents and students to learn how to cook healthy and economic meals. Family Cooking Class also includes an interactive grocery store tour and a Cooking for Life Handbook take-away, which features an 8-week, budget-friendly meal plan, produce guide, and shopping list.

Category

Food, Agriculture & Nutrition

Population(s) Served

Budget

Program 4

Parent Workshops

Designed to engage busy parents, these interactive presentations focus on basic nutrition, grocery shopping, and cooking with kids.

Category

Food, Agriculture & Nutrition

Population(s) Served

Adults

Budget

Program 5

Healthy Teacher Training

A healthy eating and cooking education program for teachers and school staff that aims to improve their own personal health, while encouraging them as healthy role models in the classroom and preparing them to integrate nutrition into core content areas.

Category

Food, Agriculture & Nutrition

Population(s) Served

Budget

Program 6

Teacher Cooking Class

This one-time, hands-on cooking class for teachers gives them the opportunity to learn the importance of incorporating nutrition lessons into their curriculum.

Category

Food, Agriculture & Nutrition

Population(s) Served

Budget

Charting Impact

Self-reported by organization

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

  1. What is the organization aiming to accomplish?
    1. Founded by Chef Art Smith, artist Jesus Salgueiro, and current CEO Linda Novick O'Keefe in 2003, Common Threads' mission is to educate children on the importance of nutrition and physical wellbeing, empowering them to be agents of change for healthier families, schools, and communities. Common Threads believes cooking is a life skill. Through our hands-on cooking programs and nutrition education, Common Threads provides a preventative health program solution in urban schools to children, families, and teachers in underserved communities. By providing children with a toolkit of knowledge and skills, we can help prevent childhood obesity and reverse the trend of generations of non-cookers, getting America's kids cooking for life.
  2. What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?
    2Common Threads offers a menu of in-and-out-of-school programs and curricula. All programs are hands-on, culturally relevant, and teach children, their families, and teachers how to cook healthy meals on a budget with available resources. We can train teachers and youth workers in your community, and license our curriculum to out-of-school-time providers nationally. CommonBytes, our health education App is also available to educators. Programs and curricula include: a Cooking Skills and World Cuisine afterschool program; an in-school, teacher-led Small Bites nutrition education program; in-school Garden Classes; Parent Workshops; Grocery Store Tours; Family Cooking Classes; Teacher Cooking Classes; and Healthy Teacher Trainings. In-school curriculum is aligned to Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards as well as to current nutrition theory, and all programs incorporate experiential learning strategies that research has shown lead to the greatest improvements in health behaviors.
  3. What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?
    Common Threads has over 12 years of experience in providing cooking and nutrition education to low-income kids and families in some of the highest-need communities across the United States. Since inception, we have Reached 110,000 students, trained over 1,400 teachers, cooked & served 1,112,000 meals and snacks, provided 1,273,000 hours of cooking & nutrition education to Common Threads' students and families. Moreover, we have become a trusted leader in the school districts we serve and a recognized subject-matter expert among other nonprofit partners and food industry leaders. Three external evaluations led by the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Chicago, and the University of Texas at Austin, show that our programs are working to improve children's knowledge, attitudes and behaviors around healthy food. Our holistic programs go beyond teaching cooking skills and nutrition education: Our curriculum is tied to Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards and incorporates experiential learning strategies that research has shown lead to the greatest improvements in health behaviors. Programs were designed with urban kids in mind, and engage parents and teachers alongside kids—including through helpful resources like the eight-week affordable meal planner, the Cooking for Life Handbook, and through community-based grocery store tours to teach nutritious shopping on a budget. Program instructors are trained chefs and/or teachers who commit to giving back to the community with Common Threads. Additionally, as a national organization with local footprints in the markets we serve, Common Threads has built extensive partnership networks in the children's health and wellness, education, culinary, and greater nonprofit sectors that support our program implementation and enhance our impact. In addition to school districts, elementary and middle schools, and other youth-serving organizations in each Common Threads city, partners include city health departments, local sports teams, grocery stores or chains, faith based organizations, departments of education, and universities.
  4. How will they know if they are making progress?
    To address the problems of childhood obesity and food insecurity especially prevalent in underserved communities, Common Threads connects healthy cooking and nutrition education to kids, teachers, families, districts, and community members. We know that cooking is cultural and familial, and that cooking is both a life skill and preventative health care for underserved communities. Composite findings published by the CDC suggest that cooking programs positively influence children's food-related preferences, attitudes and behaviors. Evaluations show that our students gain the skills and knowledge they need to cook and eat healthy on their own. Year after year, our proven programming significantly improves student nutrition knowledge, vegetable liking (a predictor of vegetable consumption), communication to the family about healthy eating, and preference for home cooked foods. Common Threads directly provides nutritious food during our programs; more importantly, our after-school cooking programs statistically significantly improve student vegetable consumption and the availability of fresh fruits & vegetables in the home.
    COMMON THREADS PROGRAMS INCREASE:
    • NUTRITION KNOWLEDGE, LIKING FOR VEGETABLES, OPENNESS TO NEW FOODS
    • COMMUNICATION TO THE FAMILY ABOUT HEALTHY EATING
    • PREFERENCE FOR HOME-COOKED MEALS
    • VEGETABLE CONSUMPTION
    • COOKING SKILLS, COOKING CONFIDENCE

    Additionally, our programs expose participants to a vibrant environment where they learn teamwork, respect, and gain self-confidence. Indeed, testimonials from our participants illustrate that our programming empowers individuals while also promoting positive youth development outcomes. For example, 9-year-old Chicagoan Adriana Alvarez not only increased (and retained) her nutrition knowledge, but also increased her self-confidence and engagement in school. She proudly reported: "I am the smartest kid in nutrition class [our in-school Small Bites program]! Usually I wasn't answering any questions in Science, but now that we do nutrition, I know all the answers. And today, in Family Cooking Class, I knew all the answers on the Veggie IQ test from nutrition class!"
  5. What have and haven't they accomplished so far?
    Since 2003, Common Threads has: Reached 110,000 students, trained over 1,400 teachers, cooked & served 1,112,000 meals and snacks, provided 1,273,000 hours of cooking & nutrition education to Common Threads' students and families.
    During the 2015-16 school year, Common Threads will serve 70,000 children across 8 cities nationwide. The organization's model has taken them into some of the largest school districts in the country. The CommonBytes digital health education platform is now available to partnering educators, and will launch to the public next fall. Our programs are designed with educator input and our own team's experience in city schools, mapped to Common Core standards, and are now used or licensed by several umbrella organizations; so they can be part of a larger health or education strategy. The organization continues to seek program partners, as well as financial and volunteer support. Common Threads continues to scale and grow with the help of generous contributions and welcomes gifts of any amount. Every $25 you give teaches one child to cook for life. To donate, visit www.commonthreads.org/donate.html. To volunteer, contact volunteers@commonthreads.org
Service Areas

Self-reported

National

After 13 years in operation, Common Threads operates in eight cities - Chicago, Austin, New Orleans, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, and Washington, D.C. - and has plans to expand to Pittsburgh in the near future.

Social Media

Blog

Funding Needs

$50,000 allows us to give 5,000 families a copy of the Common Threads cookbook, Eat the World $30,000 funds after-school cooking programs for a year at one site $1,500 provides groceries for one 10-week cooking course$1,250 provides one cooking class for 16 low-income children$1,000 provides supplies to maintain our organic garden for a year$250 provides chef hats and aprons for 16 students

photos





External Reviews

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Financials

Financial information is an important part of gauging the short- and long-term health of the organization.

COMMON THREADS
Fiscal year: Jan 01-Dec 31
Yes, financials were audited by an independent accountant.

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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

Common Threads

Leadership

NEED MORE INFO ON THIS NONPROFIT?

Free: Gain immediate access to the following:
  • Address, phone, website and contact information
  • Forms 990 for 2014, 2014 and 2013
  • Board Chair, Board Co-Chair and Board Members
  • Access to the GuideStar Community
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Principal Officer

Linda Novick O'Keefe

BIO

Linda Novick O'Keefe is the Chief Executive Officer of Common Threads.  Her experience, desire to develop innovative solutions to social problems combined with her passion for food led her to start Common Threads with chef Art Smith and artist Jesus Salgueiro in May 2003. Their vision was for a non-profit organization committed to educating Chicago's youth about cultural diversity, the culinary arts and the importance of nutrition.

Under Linda's leadership, Common Threads has grown from the basement of St. Paul the Redeemer Church, in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood to over 500 locations across the nation, and has broadened its curricular focus to include specific messaging about nutritious eating and making healthy food choices.

Prior to launching Common Threads, Linda worked in pharmaceutical advertising; however, a desire to make a difference in the community led her to an internship with Illinois Senator Dick Durbin and later to a position with the community-development savvy ShoreBank. Linda has an M.S. in Public Service Administration from DePaul University; was a 2009  Scholarship recipient and attendant of Harvard Business School's Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management; has been a Kellogg School of Management Board Governance Fellowship Mentor; and serves on the Building a Healthier Chicago Task Force.  She was the 2010 recipient of the Anti-Defamation League's Rising Star Award.

Governance

BOARD CHAIR

Chef Art Smith

TABLE fifty-two

BOARD LEADERSHIP PRACTICES

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section, which enables organizations and donors to transparently share information about essential board leadership practices. Self-reported by organization

Yes

BOARD ORIENTATION & EDUCATION

Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?

Yes

CEO OVERSIGHT

Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?

Yes

ETHICS & TRANSPARENCY

Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?

Yes

BOARD COMPOSITION

Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?

Yes

BOARD PERFORMANCE

Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?


ORGANIZATIONAL DEMOGRAPHICS

In order to support nonprofits and gain valuable insight for the sector, GuideStar worked with D5—a five-year initiative to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in philanthropy—in creating a questionnaire. This section is a voluntary questionnaire that empowers organizations to share information on the demographics of who works in and leads organizations. To protect the identity of individuals, we do not display sexual orientation or disability information for organizations with fewer than 15 staff. Any values displayed in this section are percentages of the total number of individuals in each category (e.g. 20% of all Board members for X organization are female).

Gender
Race & Ethnicity
This organization reports that it does not collect this information.
Sexual Orientation

This organization reports that it does not collect this information.

Disability

This organization reports that it does not collect this information.

Diversity Strategies
Yes
We track retention of staff, board, and volunteers across demographic categories
Yes
We track income levels of staff, senior staff, and board across demographic categories
Yes
We track the age of staff, senior staff, and board
Yes
We track the diversity of vendors (e.g., consultants, professional service firms)
No
We have a diversity committee in place
No
We have a diversity manager in place
No
We have a diversity plan
No
We use other methods to support diversity