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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.

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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 gradesjoins 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!

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

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We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

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