Donation to Common Threads (Plus Giveaway)

Well done, friends!

When Dave and I cooked up the idea of Well Fed, we decided that we wanted to donate $1 for every PDF sold to an organization that teaches kids about healthy food. As usual, when I asked you, my fabulous readers, for suggestions, you totally came through with great ideas. We ultimately chose Common Threads because their mission does for kids what we hoped to do for adults with Well Fed: “Our mission is to educate children on the importance of nutrition and physical well-being, and to foster an appreciation of cultural diversity through cooking. “

Thanks to you and your purchases of Well Fed PDFs, we just sent our donation for the first quarter of 2012 to Common Threads…

A lot of cool things have happened for Dave and I since Well Fed was released, but this milestone is the one that makes me feel like I’m busting the buttons off my shirt with pride. Since we chose Common Threads as the organization we wanted to support, I’ve learned even more about their work, and I’m so impressed and delighted with how they fulfill their mission.

About Common Threads

Common Threads offers after-school cooking classes for kids between 8 and 12 years old in Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. The 10-week program is free to students who qualify for free or reduced school lunches.

Chefs from local restaurants teach the students basic kitchen skills, cooking techniques, and the importance of fresh ingredients. And here’s the best part:  they prepare healthy, international cuisine together. Every session includes nutrition tips and cultural info to “teach our students how to connect with their bodies, their neighbors, and their world in a healthy way.”

No lie: my eyes just welled up as I typed that.

How awesome is that?!

In a recent Miami Herald article, a chef and a student talked about their Common Threads class:

Julie Frans is the signature chef of Essensia and is a volunteer for Common Threads.
“One of my favorite things to do with the kids is I love playing up the raw products, what does this do for your body? Celery. What does it remind you of? A bone. Celery has calcium, good for strong bones. Cauliflower looks like the brain and it’s good for the brain.”

Mayrin Canales is a 10-year-old fifth grader (and is after my heart).
“What I like about class is all the different experiences. We usually cook foods from different countries and I actually feel I’m in that part of the country we are cooking from. The food makes me feel a part of it.”


Here are a few stats about the effectiveness of the Common Threads program:

Common Threads’ students exhibited a 96% improvement in healthy food choices

70% of Common Threads’ students eat more fruits and vegetables

82% of Common Threads’ students limited their junk/fast food intake to one or fewer times per week

But the best might be the story a Common Threads staff member told me: A mom came to pick up her son from class, and she was about to go through a fast food drive-thru for dinner. But her son asked that she go to the grocery store instead so he could buy the ingredients to make the stew he’d learned in his Common Threads class. The little man bought the ingredients and made dinner for his mom.

Again with the tears.

Take a Look

Do yourself a favor and take a few minutes to watch this video. The young boy explaining why grilling and baking are better options than frying is brilliant, and the little girl listing her favorite cuisines will give you warm fuzzies.

Win a Copy of Eat The World

UPDATE: We have a winner! Congratulations to Kathy, who wrote in her comment:

When I was a kid (in the mid-50’s), I’d cut up cheese in a sauce pan, heat it until it melted and some of the oil separated, then eat the more intensely flavored cheese. I was too young to be fat-phobic, just really liked the taste of cheese!  Still do.

Around the same age, I’d use that same pan to melt butter and add Cheerios, stir until they soaked up the butter, then snack on them.  Don’t judge me on the Cheerios – I was a kid!

Mom let me play in the kitchen.  I put blue food coloring in my milk and she said it reminded her of rat poison (because of the color), but she let me do it anyway.

And I have a K-Bar knife that my grandfather used at the butcher counter in his grocery store.  He died years before I was born, so the knife must be at least 70 years old (I’m 64).

Eat the World: Good-For-You Food for Families
is an adorable, international cookbook filled with recipes that support the Common Threads mission. Proceeds from the sale of the cookbook are used for Common Threads classes — and I’m giving a copy to a lucky winner. The recipes aren’t all paleo, but they are (a) internationally delicious and (b) super cute. Plus, I’ll put post-it notes in the winner’s copy with tips for paleo-izing the recipes. For example, the recipe below is good-to-go if you swap the peanut butter out and replace it with Sunbutter or almond butter. Easy-peasy!

To enter:
Become a fan of Common Threads on Facebook and/or follow Common Threads on Twitter, then post to comments  letting me know which you did… along with the first food you learned to cook on your own as a kid. I suspect mine was scrambled eggs, but I was also a wizard with frozen pizza and kibbeh.

Deadline: Midnight, Friday, May 4. I’ll announce a winner on Monday, May 7.

Connect With Common Threads

If you live in Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, or Washington, D.C., why not volunteer to help out at Common Threads?! And for the rest of us, we can help the organization by connecting online and helping them spread the word.

Common Threads Website
Executive Director Linda Novick O’Keefe’s bio and contributions to The Huffington Post


Buy the cookbook Eat the World: Food-For-You Food for Families (proceeds support Common Threads classes)


  • Sarah F says:

    I “liked” them on Facebook. The first food I learned to make was grilled cheese (if you don’t count air-popped popcorn!)

  • N says:

    You are amazing! I got goosebumps reading how much you donated! Bravo! I can’t wait to see what you cook up next–your recipes are phenomenal and I can’t wait for what’s next!

  • Dania R. says:

    What a great organization! I like them on Facebook. I DO live near LA and will certainly be looking into possibly volunteering. My first food making experience was pierogi with my grandmother. I was the official dough roller and pierogi edge crimper.

  • Hope says:

    What a great organization! I liked on FaceBook and am going to post to my home page. The first thing I learned to “cook” was probably tuna fish salad/sandwiches — if you don’t count toast. But my favorite food memory is gutting fish my mother caught. She LOVED to fish and in the summertime, she went out at least a couple of times a week in her little boat and almost always brought back a catch of some sort. In retrospect, she was probably THRILLED to have a kid who actually enjoyed the smelly, messy job of cleaning fish. (It was a special bonus to find roe inside the trout!) At this point in life, I can’t imagine what I found so appealing, other than being part of the experience with her. My mom died in 1996 (she was in her 80’s) but I still have her fish knife.

    • Mel says:

      Hope! Thanks for sharing this story. I love it so much… what a lovely memory for you to cherish, along with the knife. So awesome.

  • Heather Clements says:

    What an awesome organization!! I liked them on FB and followed them on Twitter. I would have to say the first thing I cooked as a kid (I should say baked) are biscuits. You know us southerners and our biscuits…lol

  • Kathy says:

    Liked ’em!

    When I was a kid (in the mid-50’s), I’d cut up cheese in a sauce pan, heat it until it melted and some of the oil separated, then eat the more intensely flavored cheese. I was too young to be fat-phobic, just really liked the taste of cheese! Still do.

    Around the same age, I’d use that same pan to melt butter and add Cheerios, stir until they soaked up the butter, then snack on them. Don’t judge me on the Cheerios – I was a kid!

    Mom let me play in the kitchen. I put blue food coloring in my milk and she said it reminded her of rat poison (because of the color), but she let me do it anyway.

    And I have a K-Bar knife that my grandfather used at the butcher counter in his grocery store. He died years before I was born, so the knife must be at least 70 years old (I’m 64).

  • Mabel says:

    I “liked” them on facebook and thanks for supporting such a great cause. My mom never really let me in the kitchen as a kid, so as soon as I was on my own I wanted to learn as much as I could. I wish I got an early start like these kids.

  • Renatusik says:

    I liked them on Facebook. Thanks for supporting them!!! First thing I learned to cook – scrambled eggs 🙂

  • JennF says:

    I don’t twitter, so followed them on Facebook. What a fabulous program!

    My first food that I “cooked” myself was fried bologna. Stick a slice in the microwave and nuke until it turns into a cup-shape and the edges get crispy. If you really want to go all-out, stick half a slice of american cheese in the cup!

    • Mel says:

      That sounds so crappy and SO SO SO yummy.

    • Amie says:

      The first food I learned to make was scrambled eggs…but his couldn’t have been far behind. Once a year or so I decide I am hungry for it. I go to the deli, buy one slice of bologna, beg a piece of American cheese off a neighbor, and make it. It’s especially delicious on white bread, of course. 🙂

  • TanyaV says:

    Done! First thing I probably made was hard boiled eggs. I remember coming home from school, boiling up a few and then mashing them in a cup with some salt.

  • NIkki says:

    Followed them on Twitter! While it’s probably not the actual first food I learned to make, it’s the first I remember. My mom’s family used to take car trips every summer to Cape Cod when she was a girl and they ALWAYS stopped at this particular place for Chicken Chow Mein Sandwiches. The family loved them so much, that my Grandma orders the specific gravy powder and noodles from that company and always makes sure her kids are stocked up. She even used to mail me the supplies when I was away at college. It’s my ultimate childhood comfort food that my brother and I learned to make for when our mom had to work late. So easy, so delicious, so non-Paleo. I miss it dearly!!!

    • Mel says:

      I wrote an article last year about egg foo yung, and while I was researching it, learned all kinds of fasctinating things about American Chinese food, including chow mein. That sandwich sounds awesome.

  • Lauren says:

    I “liked” them on Facebook- thanks for posting the link because they are kind of hard to find otherwise.

    Again, so glad you chose Common Threads to support- the transformation some of the students go through from the beginning to the end of the program is truly remarkable. Amazing what a little bit of trust and teaching can do.

    The first thing I remember learning to cook was scrambled eggs! (But no need to enter me in the giveaway, I believe I still have all the recipes from when I worked with them a couple years ago).

  • Dana says:

    This is so exciting! I am so thankful to have learned about this great organization through you.

    And thank you SO MUCH for putting “Well Fed” out there for people like me who need to find a whole new way of cooking/eating/thinking/living! I just finished my very first Whole30, and I have absolutely no desire to go back to my former way of life. Seriously. With all of the delicious food I was experiencing during April, I had NOT ONE CRAVING. Amazing, wonderful, beautiful. Wow.

  • jessica says:

    I liked Common Threads on facebook! I think the first food I learned to cook was brownies back when I was a kid.

  • Ruth says:

    My first creation was a blue cake with coconut frosting and no recipe. I believe I put an Ariel figurine in top lol

  • Kerry V says:

    What a wonderful program!! As an adult I could still learn from a program like this!! I did like Common Threads on Facebook. One of the first things that I made on my own were sugar cookies. Unfortunately, I overcooked them and they turned out blck. My brother laughed at me. He laughed even harder when the dog didn’t want to eat the cookies either!!

  • Jackie says:

    I liked them on facebook! One of the first things that I learned to cook as a kid was homemade biscuits; my grandmother would make them fresh every morning!

  • Michelle says:

    I liked them on Facebook. What a great organization!
    I can’t remember the first food I made, but I do remember being home alone (age 8) and baking cookies. Once done baking, I cleaned the kitchen and took the cookies back to a teacher at my school. A few days later, when the teacher thanked my mom for the home baked cookies, my mom figured out what I had done. It’s probably the last time I cleaned the kitchen up that well!! I still love to bake!

    • Michelle says:

      Not sure what happened, but the smiley face was supposed to be the number eight and a parenthesis. lol

  • Jill says:

    I like Common Threads on FB! What a neat organization!

  • Sara says:

    Follow on Twitter: check!

    This is, like, the AWESOMEST thing ever! I hope it keeps growing–we need a program like this in Canada, too!

    The first thing I ever made was breakfast in bed for my parents. I had ambitions of creating this gorgeous salad from a kid’s cookbook (veggies for breakfast–yay!), but all we had from the recipe was celery (or possibly baby carrots) and Velveeta. My parents were very diplomatic that morning… although I did eventually improve after I learned to make chocolate chip pancakes!

  • dani says:

    Followed on twitter… first food I learned to make? Either jello or top ramen, heh. Neither of those is really “food” though. I didn’t ever really cook for myself until after I moved out of the house, off to college.

    I did help dad degut a lot of shrimp though… (which is why I really can’t stand the thought of eating it now)

  • Evelyn says:

    What a cool organization!

    I liked CT on Facebook. I first learned to cook Kraft macaroni and cheese. The ones shaped like cartoon characters always seemed to taste better than the regular ones. Never figured that out.

  • katetastrophee says:

    I checked out the website and saw that the program is on break in Miami which is where near I live. I’m going to see about volunteering when it starts back up in December. While I was looking at the website I saw there is a wish list page and I’m going to go through my overstocked kitchen and see what I can donate.

    I’m also following them on Twitter and liked them on Facebook.

    The first thing I made by myself was my grandmother’s oatmeal cookies. She lived a couple of hours away from our house and when she would come visit she would always bring cookies of some sort. My favorite were the oatmeal because she would leave out the raisins which I detested (still do). Well, on one visit my older brother ate all of the cookies before I got even one of them. I despised him at the time, but realize now that he was a growing teenager and had no control over a tupperware container of sugar laden cookies. and have since begrudgingly forgiven him.
    Before I realized all of the cookies were gone my grandmother had already gone home. I pouted about it for awhile and then decided to call her on the phone and ask her to send more cookies. She suggested I make them myself and told me to get a pencil and a piece of paper and she gave me the recipe to write down. The ingredient list was simple and we had everything in the pantry so as soon as I got off the phone I followed her directions implicitly and made my first batch of grandma’s oatmeal cookies. They were nowhere near as good as hers (I think I confused tablespoons and teaspoons) but I still didn’t share any with my brother.

  • Rae Ellen Gutrich says:

    I am a Chef Instructor at Common Threads in Chicago. I wanted to thank you for supporting our organization! I’ve been with Common Threads for four years and cannot tell you how much I love working with the kids each semester!!! They are amazing and learn so much each class. I truley believe if you give kids the knowledge to be thoughtful of the process (planting, purchasing,cooking and eating) they will embrace it and have it become apart of their lives. Thank you for supporting that cause!!!!

    • Mel says:

      Thank you so much for stopping by! And kudos to you for working with Common Threads. It seems like such a great experience for the kids and the chefs. I’m jealous!

      Thank YOU for doing what you do. I’m excited to do our part to support your work.

  • Stacy says:

    liked them on FB. I think I probably learned to cook chicken noodle soup or something like that! 🙂

  • Tiz says:

    I’ve only just begun following you and exploring your website, but find you amazingly inspirational…I love the positive energy you spread through your site. I’ve liked Common Threads on FB and the first thing I learned to make as a kid was Margaret Fulton’s chocolate chip cookies. They are the ultimate and I think mum only taught me how to make them so I would stop hassling her to make them haha. They are still my ultimate treat of choice today and mum made them and sent them over to me whilst I was deployed to the Middle East last year. Still yet to Paleo-ise them, but will work on that.
    Thanks for your inspiration Mel.

    • Mel says:

      Thank you for this sweet note! I’m glad you found me and are enjoying the site.

      That’s a great story about the cookies. So lovely! I think cookies are pretty easy to paleo-ize — just swap in almond flour. Give it a shot!

      Thanks for reading — stay in touch!

  • Andrea says:

    Liked! I think the first food I learned to make was cake. My mom would let me help her everytime she made one. (:

  • Maggie says:

    Followed on Twitter and contacted my local organizer about volunteering! Such an awesome cause, thank you for sharing!

    Oh, and I think the first “food” I made on my own (probably without my mother’s permission) was brownies from a boxed mix haha.

  • I did both fb and twitter <3

  • I love this blog post and I cannot tell you how exciting it is to see so much support. Melissa we are so thankful for your involvement and generosity!

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