Common Threads Brings Healthy Cooking Education To Local Schools
From ESV Contributor Chris Olssen
Cooking in the kitchen with my mother as a child gave me solace from the diabolical underpinnings of grade school kids with their sights set on the awkward nerd who can’t throw a baseball. While I was slowly grating zucchini and leveling just the right amount of flour, my mom would regale me with stories about the traumatic Home Economics classes from her youth, all the while expertly maneuvering around the kitchen - preheating the oven, greasing the pan and cracking a handful of eggs with the slightest of ease. No doubt those childhood classes had a lasting impression.
Gone are the days of Home Economics as a required part of a schools curriculum. As countless educational institutions across the nation struggle to graduate students with a well-rounded education in Math, the Sciences and the Arts, other superfluous classes such as those focusing on cooking and nutrition have been skirted to the wayside. But at what cost? With news reports surfacing daily about the nation’s rising levels of obesity in both children and adults, perhaps a revitalized and less antiquated version of Home Economics is precisely the solution needed. One organization making strides to counter this absence of food education in our schools is Common Threads.
A non-profit founded in 2003 by celebrity chef Art Smith and artist Jesus Salgueiro, Common Threads is a national organization aimed at instructing children how to take an active role in understanding the part healthy food plays in our daily lives in a fun and educational setting. At Eastside College Preparatory School in East Palo Alto, 20 epicurean-in-training sixth graders just recently finished their last class in the 10-week after school program. Focusing on teaching them not only the basics of food preparation such as knife skills (chopping, dicing and slicing while holding the blade correctly) and cooking (sauteing, roasting, baking, etc.) but also discovering different cultures through ethnically diverse dishes and the nutritional value of these foods and those we consume every day.
Each class begins with an interactive debriefing of the day’s culinary destination where fun historical facts about the country are interwoven with a breakdown of the regional cuisine including noteworthy dishes and ingredients. Instructed by trained professional chefs and supervised by local volunteers, the kids take to their stations and begin cooking up a storm. Afterwards, the class is concluded with a recap of the methods and recipes accomplished during the class and how it can easily be recreated at home.
What began in a few schools on the east coast has quickly spread across the nation and now the organizations campaign effort to get one million kids cooking in the next five years doesn’t seem like that difficult of a task. Within Silicon Valley and the surrounding Bay Area, Common Threads hopes to expand to ten more schools over the course of the next two years depending on the support of corporate sponsors and local volunteers.