Founded in 2003, the organization empowers children, teachers and parents in low-income communities through programs like in- and after-school cooking classes. This month, Common Threads launched a campaign called Cooking For Life—featuring video demos from pros like our own Gail Simmons—to further underscore the importance of developing culinary skills for lifelong nutrition. We caught up with founding CEO Linda Novick O’Keefe to understand more about her work and programs.
Why did you found Common Threads?
After the tragic events of 9/11, chef Art Smith and his husband, artist Jesus Salgueiro, wanted to find a way to bring children together and teach them to celebrate different cultures. They saw food as a vehicle for positive change. After meeting Art and Jesus, I was compelled to join and build the business plan. Food is personal, familial—it’s a way to come together. It was really a dream job handed on a platter.
- The Most Innovative Women in Food and Drink 2015
- Healthy Kid-Friendly Dishes
- Gail Simmons's Favorite Healthy Recipes
You connect nutrition to social justice, how do they relate?
If we don’t have our health, we don’t have anything. Food access is a real issue, it’s hard to pick up fresh fruit and vegetables, so many families rely on fast food and corner liquor stores. Due to safety concerns, kids have to go straight home from school, they can’t play, go for a walk or take an after-school job. It’s important to have high-quality programs in neighborhoods that don’t have the resources, promoting this idea that mealtime can be a sanctuary.