Most Shared

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.

True
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!

Joy

Man uses TikTok to offer 'dinner with dad' to any kid that needs one, even adult ones

Summer Clayton is the father of 2.4 million kids and he couldn’t be more proud.

Come for the food, stay for the wholesomeness.

Summer Clayton is the father of 2.4 million kids and he couldn’t be more proud. His TikTok channel is dedicated to giving people intimate conversations they might long to have with their own father, but can’t. The most popular is his “Dinner With Dad” segment.

The concept is simple: Clayton, aka Dad, always sets down two plates of food. He always tells you what’s for dinner. He always blesses the food. He always checks in with how you’re doing.

I stress the stability here, because as someone who grew up with a less-than-stable relationship with their parents, it stood out immediately. I found myself breathing a sigh of relief at Clayton’s consistency. I also noticed the immediate emotional connection created just by being asked, “How was your day?” According to relationship coach and couples counselor Don Olund, these two elements—stability and connection—are fundamental cravings that children have of their parents. Perhaps we never really stop needing it from them.


Keep Reading Show less

Alberto Cartuccia Cingolani wows audiences with his amazing musical talents.

Mozart was known for his musical talent at a young age, playing the harpsichord at age 4 and writing original compositions at age 5. So perhaps it's fitting that a video of 5-year-old piano prodigy Alberto Cartuccia Cingolani playing Mozart has gone viral as people marvel at his musical abilities.

Alberto's legs can't even reach the pedals, but that doesn't stop his little hands from flying expertly over the keys as incredible music pours out of the piano at the 10th International Musical Competition "Città di Penne" in Italy. Even if you've seen young musicians play impressively, it's hard not to have your jaw drop at this one. Sometimes a kid comes along who just clearly has a gift.

Of course, that gift has been helped along by two professional musician parents. But no amount of teaching can create an ability like this.

Keep Reading Show less

TikTok about '80s childhood is a total Gen X flashback.

As a Gen X parent, it's weird to try to describe my childhood to my kids. We're the generation that didn't grow up with the internet or cell phones, yet are raising kids who have never known a world without them. That difference alone is enough to make our 1980s childhoods feel like a completely different planet, but there are other differences too that often get overlooked.

How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

And '80s hair? With the feathered bangs and the terrible perms and the crunchy hair spray? What, why and how?

Keep Reading Show less