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Common Threads taught Lauryn how to cook. Now she’s teaching her family, too.

The Jones family has always been tight. Now, thanks to their daughter, they’re cooking together in a whole new way.

Common Threads taught Lauryn how to cook. Now she’s teaching her family, too.
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Quaker Common Threads

13-year-old Lauryn Jones loves every part of cooking, from prep to pan to plate — including the shopping. Her infectious energy is changing her family's relationship with food.

Lauryn's passion comes from one place: three years of participating in Common Threads' program in Chicago, a unique initiative educating low-income kids in large urban centers like Chicago and New York about cooking, nutrition, and healthy living.

When parents are busy, budgets are tight, and access to quality healthy food is limited — at best — it can be hard for families to find time to cook meals together. This limited access to healthy food has made low-income families more likely to suffer from long- and short-term health issues, including low self-esteem, sleep apnea, pre-diabetes, and more.


It’s a systemic problem that multiple generations of families have had to deal with and one that money-conscious school districts and local governments have been unable to address in a meaningful way for decades.

Common Threads is a response to these ongoing problems.

Common Thread students enjoying a hands-on culinary experience. Image via Quaker/Common Threads, used with permission.

Every year, a new cohort of kids from third to eighth grades joins Common Threads for intensive programs including Small Bites, Cooking Skills & World Cuisine, and Family Cooking Classes. It’s all designed to help kids think about food and nutrition and healthy living as an important part of life — while they’re young enough for it to really make a difference.

For three of the last four years, Lauryn joined Common Threads. They taught her essential kitchen skills and cooking skills as well as life and leadership skills. She came out of their program eager to share her learnings with her family.

Her mom, Tanya Jones, is effusive about the program.

"They treated Lauryn well as a person, they taught her techniques, they gave her the science behind it," she says. "It’s a holistic approach, not just a one-time thing. They were so hands-on, and it exceeded my expectations."

Lauryn agrees. She’s grateful to Common Threads for introducing her to new foods, including granola and kefir (a probiotic-fermented milk product that tastes like yogurt but is drinkable).

"Even my sister started drinking it!" she says proudly.

Common Threads empowers its kid participants to help their parents with the food choices they make for the family. For Lauryn and Tanya, that has meant looking at grocery shopping in a new way.

The Jones family (mostly) hard at work in the kitchen. Image via Tanya Jones/Quaker, used with permission.

"We’ve visited the Common Threads garden for carrots and kale; we buy kale chips," says Tanya. "We buy whole wheat bread from the bakery now and cage-free brown eggs."

The food they make as a family is different, too. Lauryn loves making whole wheat pancakes, salads, and smoothies. She has a special recipe for pasta with pesto and mascarpone cheese. When they cook, it’s a collective effort with lots of jokes and fun and filled with roles for everyone.

"My sister can’t cook," kids Lauryn. "So she’s the sampler."

The Jones family was transformed by what Lauryn learned in Common Threads. According to chef, mother, and registered dietitian Frances Largeman-Roth, that’s not uncommon.

Frances Largeman-Roth and her daughter, Phoebe. Image via Lauren Volo, used with permission.

"Common Threads is a program that is near and dear to me and has changed so many kids' lives," she said. "They work with a great network of schools, and it’s wonderful to be working with people that just 'get it'."

Largeman-Roth is particularly enthusiastic about the importance of breakfast for kids — something she's proud of Quaker for championing in its partnership with Common Threads.

"Ultimately, [breakfast] sets the stage for the whole day. It doesn’t have to be the kind of breakfast you serve on the weekend, but it has to be healthy and something that’s going to fuel a kid until lunch because once they get to school age, they may or may not get a snack time before lunch," she said.

The research agrees — a 2008 study of 379 sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders found that regularly eating breakfast had a positive influence on attention/concentration, memory, and school achievement.

Quaker is helping Common Threads make breakfast an even bigger part of the program.

For the 2016-2017 school year, Quaker is partnering with Common Threads to fund its Family Cooking Classes and collaborate on expanding lessons to include breakfast so there's nutrition education available for Common Threads students for all meals of the day.

One of the biggest reasons Tanya and Lauryn feel they succeeded in making positive changes to the way they buy and cook food is because the change was gradual.

"Change is not always hard, but you resist it. We are a busy family, moving really fast. Lauryn helped me feel comfortable with making changes by asking for one or two things different on every shopping list, or with family meals, and it made me much more open for sharing and changing," said Tanya.

Is cooking together something your family does? Whether you're all pros in the kitchen or ready to take your first culinary step together, here's a great recipe for your family to try!

Blueberry Banana Overnight Oats With Coconut

Developed by Frances Largeman-Roth.

Makes 4 servings

  • 2 cups Quaker Old Fashioned Oats
  • 1 banana, sliced
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • ¼ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1⁄4 cup chia seeds
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 cups milk or non-dairy alternative
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons honey, divided

1. Preheat oven or toaster oven to 325° F. Spread coconut on a lined baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes until golden. Let cool.

2. Place the oats, chia seeds, and salt in a bowl. Mix well and transfer ½ cup to each of 4 Mason jars or other lidded containers.

3. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk the milk together with 1 tablespoon of the honey. Pour ½ cup of the milk over the oats in each jar.

4. Distribute the banana slices into each of the 4 jars. Top with ¼ cup of blueberries and a tablespoon of the toasted coconut. Drizzle each jar with ½ teaspoon of the remaining honey.

5. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Stir and enjoy!

Pexels / Julia M Cameron
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In the last 20 years, the internet has become almost as essential as water or air. Every day, many of us wake up and check it for the news, sports, work, and social media. We log on from our phones, our computers, even our watches. It's a luxury so often taken for granted. With the COVID-19 pandemic, as many now work from home and children are going to school online, home access is a more critical service than ever before.

On the flip side, some 3.6 billion people live without affordable access to the internet. This digital divide — which has only widened over the past 20 years — has worsened wealth inequality within countries, divided developed and developing economies and intensified the global gender gap. It has allowed new billionaires to rise, and contributed to keeping billions of others in poverty.

In the US, lack of internet access at home prevents nearly one in five teens from finishing their homework. One third of households with school-age children and income below $30,000 don't have internet in their homes, with Black and Hispanic households particularly affected.

The United Nations is working to highlight the costs of the digital divide and to rapidly close it. In September 2019, for example, the UN's International Telecommunication Union and UNICEF launched Giga, an initiative aimed at connecting every school and every child to the internet by 2030.

Closing digital inequity gaps also remains a top priority for the UN Secretary-General. His office recently released a new Roadmap for Digital Cooperation. The UN Foundation has been supporting both this work, and the High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation co-chaired by Melinda Gates and Jack Ma, which made a series of recommendations to ensure all people are connected, respected, and protected in the digital age. Civil society, technologists and communications companies, such as Verizon, played a critical role in informing those consultations. In addition, the UN Foundation houses the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL), which advances digital inclusion through streamlining technology, unlocking markets and accelerating digitally enabled services as it works to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

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This year, we've all experienced a little more stress and anxiety. This is especially true for youth facing homelessness, like Megan and Lionel. Enter Covenant House, an international organization that helps transform and save the lives of more than a million homeless, runaway, and trafficked young people.

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Amazon is Delivering Smiles this holiday season by donating essential items and fulfilling AmazonSmile Charity Lists for organizations, like Covenant House, that have been impacted this year more than ever. Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a charity of your choice or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your selected charity.

Courtesy of Macy's

Brantley and his snowman

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"Would you like to build a snowman?" If you asked five-year-old Brantley from Texas this question, the answer would be a resounding "Yes!" While it may sound like a simple dream, since Texas doesn't usually see much snow, it seemed like a lofty one for him, even more so because Brantley has a congenital heart disease.

On Dec. 11, 2019, however, the real Macy's Santa and his two elves teamed up with Make-A-Wish to surprise Brantley and his family on his way to Colorado where there was plenty of snow for him to build his very own snowman, fulfilling his wish as part of the Macy's Believe campaign. After a joy-filled plane ride where every passenger got gift bags from Macy's, the family arrived in Breckenridge, Colorado where Santa and his elves helped Brantley build a snowman.

Brantley, Brantley's mom, and Santa marveling at their snowmanAll photos courtesy of Macy's

Brantley, who according to his mom had never actually seen snow, was blown away by the experience.

"Well, I had to build a snowman because snowmen are my favorite," Brantley said in an interview with Summit Daily. "All of it was my favorite part."

This is just one example of the more than 330,000 wishes the nonprofit Make-A-Wish have fulfilled to bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses since its founding 40 years ago. Even though many of the children that Make-A-Wish grants wishes for manage or overcome their illnesses, they often face months, if not years of doctor's visits, hospital stays and uncomfortable treatments. The nonprofit helps these children and their families replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy and anxiety with hope.

It's hardly an outlandish notion — research shows that a wish come true can help increase these children's resiliency and improve their quality of life. Brantley is a prime example.

"This couldn't have come at a better time because we see all the hardships that we went through last year," Brantley's mom Brandi told Summit Daily.

Brantley playing with snowballs

Now more than ever, kids with critical illnesses need hope. Since they're particularly vulnerable to disease, they and their families have had to isolate even more during the pandemic and avoid the people they love most and many of the activities that recharge them. That's why Make-A-Wish is doing everything it can to fulfill wishes in spite of the unprecedented obstacles.

That's where you come in. Macy's has raised over $132 million for Make-A-Wish, and helped grant more than 15,500 wishes since their partnership began in 2003, but they couldn't have done that without the support of everyday people. The crux of that support comes from Macy's Believe Campaign — the longstanding holiday fundraising effort where for every letter to Santa that's written online at Macys.com or dropped off safely at the red Believe mailbox at their stores, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. New this year, National Believe Day will be expanded to National Believe Week and will provide customers the opportunity to double their donations ($2 per letter, up to an additional $1 million) for a full week from Sunday, Nov. 29 through Saturday, Dec. 5.

There are more ways to support Make-A-Wish besides letter-writing too. If you purchase a $4 Believe bracelet, $2 of each bracelet will be donated to Make-A-Wish through Dec. 31. And for families who are all about the holiday PJs, on Giving Tuesday (Dec. 1), 20 percent of the purchase price of select family pajamas will benefit Make-A-Wish.

Elizabeth living out her wish of being a fashion designer

Additionally, this year's campaign features 6-year-old Elizabeth, a Make-A-Wish child diagnosed with leukemia, whose wish to design a dress recently came true. Thanks to the style experts at Macy's Fashion Office and I.N.C. International Concepts, only at Macy's, Elizabeth had the opportunity to design a colorful floral maxi dress. Elizabeth's exclusive design is now available online at Macys.com and in select Macy's stores. In the spirit of giving back this holiday season, 20 percent of the purchase price of Elizabeth's dress (through Dec. 31) will benefit Make-A-Wish.You can also donate directly to Make-A-Wish via Macy's website.

This holiday season may be a tough one this year, but you can bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses by delivering hope for their wishes to come true.

via Twins Trust / Twitter

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