Common Threads receives $100,000 Farm To School grant from USDA

By Common Threads | Jul 6, 2020

Cooking & nutrition education nonprofit will use two-year grant to begin sourcing food from urban farms for Chicago programs

Chicago | July 6, 2020 – Common Threads, a nonprofit organization that provides hands-on, cooking and nutrition education to children, parents and educators in under-resourced communities, was just awarded a two-year Farm to School Grant Award for $100,000 from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“The Farm to School grant will be transformational for our organization,” said Linda Novick O’Keefe, Common Threads co-founder and CEO. “Too many Chicago families have limited access to nutritious food, and urban farms present a unique way to solve this challenge. We’re thrilled to deepen our collaboration with Chicago Public Schools, while also having the opportunity to explore urban farms as a food access solution in our other markets.”

Over the next two years, Common Threads will implement the Farm to School program with three schools from Chicago Public Schools, each matched with a nearby urban farm location such as Windy City Harvest.

“I’ve seen firsthand the inspiring work Common Threads is doing in Chicago to promote healthy eating and foster an interest in cooking among students. I’m pleased this federal funding will allow them to continue and expand their mission to improve access to local foods in Chicago Public Schools,” said U.S. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, who visited a Common Threads Cooking Skills & World Cuisine class in February at Jungman Elementary.

Since Common Threads was founded in Chicago in 2003 by Chef Art Smith, Jesus Salgueiro and Novick O’Keefe, the organization has reached nearly 180,000 children, parents and educators throughout Chicago, and more than 580,000 people nationwide in its 12 markets. The organization is currently receiving USDA funding through its Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education program (SNAP-Ed) in Texas, New York and Pennsylvania.

Common Threads was founded in Chicago in 2003 by CEO Linda Novick O’Keefe, celebrity chef Art Smith and his husband, artist Jesus Salgueiro, as a way to bring under-resourced children together, help them celebrate different cultures and teach them about healthy nutrition. From its humble beginnings in a church basement, Common Threads now services children and families in 12 markets, including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Washington D.C., Miami, Pittsburgh, Austin, San Antonio, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Houston, El Paso and Erie. For more information, visit or search #CookingForLife on social media.

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Since 2013, the USDA Farm to School Grant Program has offered annual grants to schools, school districts, nonprofits, state agencies, agricultural producers, and Indian Tribal Organizations to plan, implement, or provide training on farm to school activities. FNS is committed to working with schools and agricultural partners to ensure healthy habits take root in early childhood.

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