About Us

History

 

Common Threads was founded by Chef Art Smith, artist Jesus Salgueiro and Linda Novick O’Keefe in 2003. After Chef Art and Jesus spent time cooking for New York families impacted by 9/11, they were inspired by the power of food to heal by bringing people together by celebrating traditions and understanding culture while enjoying the benefits of healthy, nutritious meals.

Soon, the nonprofit Common Threads was launched, with the first class offered in a church basement in Chicago in March 2004. The organization soon expanded beyond the Windy City to include programming in Los Angeles in 2007. Future expansion included Miami (2009), Washington, D.C. (2009), New York City and Austin (2014), Pittsburgh (2015) and San Antonio, Dallas-Ft. Worth, El Paso and Erie (2018). Today the organization reaches more than 100,000 children, parents and educators through its cooking and nutrition education programs.

“Our world is a large quilt and its people are the fabric – colorful swatches of beautifully woven material – all joined together by these common threads — family and food.”
– Chef Art Smith, Co-Founder

Our Solution

 

It’s something many of us enjoy but aren’t always able to do: having the time, basic knowledge, or all the “right things” to cook simple, healthful meals and snacks to enjoy with family. As we eat, we are not only nourished by the food itself, but also by the conversation shared over the table with loved ones. Yet for too many families in America, cooking a healthy meal with fresh ingredients seems too expensive, time-consuming, or simply too overwhelming for a variety of reasons. One of our goals is to take away those notions and provide real solutions.

Our suite of in-person and digital programs engage children, parents and educators in how they can prepare and select healthier foods, while also infusing education about the world around us.

Mission

 

Common Threads is a national nonprofit that provides children and families cooking and nutrition education to encourage healthy habits that contribute to wellness. We equip under-resourced communities with information to make affordable, nutritious and appealing food choices wherever they live, work, learn, and play. We know that food is rooted in culture and tradition so we promote diversity in our lessons and recipes, encouraging our participants to celebrate the world around them.

Vision

 

Common Threads aspires to build communities that embrace healthy cooking, healthy eating and celebration of culture.

Values

 

Common Threads is a passionate team of problem solvers and learners driven by the desire to help build healthy, self-sustaining communities. Our approach is earnest, but not always conventional. We are intentional, but also entrepreneurial. Our work is experiential, with a desire for our lessons to complement and enhance learning. We are proud of our work, and humbled to be a part of communities across the country.

commitment

COMMITMENT

We are committed to teaching children and families about selecting ingredients to cook meals and snacks that are nutritious; bringing joy to families; and celebrating our diversity of culture with a global perspective on recipes and food. We design programs that create multi-generational nutrition ambassadors.
Result

RESULTS

We invest in research and evaluation that demonstrates our programs’ influence and impact in schools and communities. Our research builds evidence that identifies our contributions toward improving quality of life outcomes for children and their families.
Respect

RESPECT

We embrace diversity, act with humility, and celebrate the strengths, creativity and perspectives of all individuals.
Honesty-integrity

HONESTY & INTEGRITY

We always engage others in the ways we would like to be treated ourselves, whether sharing a meal or a story. We practice the important components of building genuine relationships: trust, honesty, and integrity in action.
Improvement

CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT

We continuously improve our strategies and decision-making based on the data we collect and our interactions with participants and partners.
Teamwork

TEAMWORK

We are a team of individuals who bring a variety of strengths and perspectives, working together toward a common goal. We support and celebrate one another, working every day to build a culture that fosters personal happiness and professional fulfillment.

Founders

 
Linda Novick O’Keefe

Linda Novick O’Keefe

Co-Founder

Linda Novick O’Keefe is the co-founder and chief executive officer of Common Threads. Under her leadership, Common Threads has grown its in-school, after-school, teacher and provider training, and family programming to more than 750 schools and community partner sites in 12 major U.S. cities, teaching close to 600,000 children, parents and educators what it means to cook for life.

From Common Threads’ inception, Linda prioritized developing nutrition education programs designed to achieve real behavior change. She is a champion of rigorous evaluation and external collaboration with academic experts. By creating a scaled and sustainable program, Linda has provided a platform for innovation in nutrition education.

Linda has been a Kellogg School of Management Board Governance Fellowship Mentor and served on the Building a Healthier Chicago Task Force. She was the recipient of the Anti-Defamation League’s Rising Star Award, was featured by Today’s Chicago Woman as one of 100 Women Making a Difference, was included as one of Clean Plates Moms on a Mission and was a 2018 SWSX Community Service Award Honoree.

She currently serves on the Smithsonian’s Kitchen Cabinet and as a Babson College Social Innovation Fellow. Linda has her Executive Education Certificate, Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management, from Harvard University; her master’s degree in Public Service Management from DePaul University; and her bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Arizona State University. She resides in Austin with her husband Nick and two children, Zachary and Julia.

Jesus Salgueiro & Art Smith

Jesus Salgueiro & Art Smith

Co-Founder

Common Threads Leadership Team

 
Shana Alford

Shana Alford

Vice President of Research & Evaluation

Jordan Fickess

Jordan Fickess

Vice President of Communications and Culture

Stephanie Folkens

Stephanie Folkens

Vice President of Programs

Jed Miracle

Jed Miracle

Chief Financial Officer

Emily Conrath

Emily Conrath

Director of Development

National & Regional Boards

 

A number of talented professionals volunteer as members of Common Threads’ national and regional boards of directors. Learn more about these dedicated teams that support our mission. Email jfickess@commonthreads.org for more information.

Where we are

 

Common Threads provides live and on-demand cooking and nutrition education programs throughout the U.S. through our digital resource hub, Common Bytes. Our team is located in 12 markets, where we also offer in-person programming to families, schools and nonprofit partners.