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Common Threads Expands National Scope & Programs


Chicago-born Common Threads launched just over a decade ago as the brainchild of celebrity chef Art Smith. He wanted to teach low-income kids how to cook and eat nutritiously. He’s done a delicious job of it, and the successes mean a continuous expansion of the work. Here’s how they’ve done it.

Under the guidance of Founding CEO, Linda Novick O’Keefe, Common Threads began growing impressively in Chicago, with solid partnerships between the city’s public schools and local chefs.

Since 2007, MW&A has provided organizational development and foundation relations and grants development consulting to Common Threads, resulting in over $500,000 in new funders throughout the country.

Most recently, a generous $1 million grant from WalMart Foundation has taken the program from 28 schools to now over 120 schools. The majority of these schools and program partners sites are in Chicago, but other Common Threads programs have been growing in four additional locales: Miami, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Palo Alto.

MW&A committed to leveraging relationships in every major US city where Common Threads is growing.  Novick O’Keefe says Common Threads’ five-year plan includes strategies to extend the reach of the message and mission beyond the classroom.   “With a goal to get 1 million kids cooking, we are ready to take the program into more schools, summer programs, and even into homes, with webcasts that show families how-to.”

Making a strategic shift to a national scope is ambitious and the challenges are very real. We’re pleased to be a part of scaling these programs, honoring what matters most in each city where Common Threads is growing, and making authentic connections with local people and concerns to get kids cooking.

In February of 2014, MW&A hosted CEO Linda Novick O’Keefe in Los Angeles for meetings with THINK Together, The Creative Artists Agency (CAA) Foundation and the Milken Institute.