At the center of Common Threads is the mission to connect kids with nourishing food from seed to table. They create food experiences for youth around Whatcom County through their cooking and garden classes that take place throughout the year on school grounds, in community sites, and at affordable housing complexes. When asked about food accessibility in Whatcom County, Laura Plaut, the Executive Director and Founder of Common Threads, said that “one of the things we’ve come to appreciate more and more deeply is if you hand a child the most gorgeous bunch of kale, freshly harvested and they don’t know what to do with it or their family doesn’t know what to do with it, it is not yet accessible food.”
Through their programs, kids build joyful connections with food as a way to promote food access as well as connecting to the land in which the food grows. By building gardens on school grounds, kids can access the most basic way of connecting to nature, through food, on a regular basis. Kids gain a profound personal awareness of the effort it takes to maintain healthy soil, encourage friendly critters and pollinators into the garden, and use food to nourish their own bodies as well as the bodies in their community. The choice to be on school grounds was also not just for convenience, but thoughtfully decided as a way to decrease environmental impact as well as barriers to attendance to the program by removing the need for bus travel and field trip permission slips. Both of these logistical pieces have proven to be continual barriers for teachers and students being able to participate in environmental education programming.
“Food is something we all have in common and is a great opportunity for people to explore our diversity and differences.” - Laura Plaut
By bringing cooking class into the classroom during the winter months, Common Threads provides opportunities for students to talk about food preferences, likes and dislikes and build a healthy conversation around how we have a richness in the way we approach food and how this richness and diversity is an asset to our community.
Throughout the pandemic, Common Threads has found ways to step back from their regular programming and ask how they can be of service to what is already happening to address food insecurity in Whatcom County, knowing that food insecurity is only growing and being exacerbated in many communities.
Laura knows that Common Threads is not positioned to solve the community’s food justice or food access issues alone, but that they have the opportunity to play a specific role in a much larger system. Through building relationships with the Birchwood Food Desert Fighters, partnering when possible with school and food bank food relief efforts, and contributing to the growth and revitalization of several community gardens (one in North Bellingham and the other at the East Whatcom Regional Resource Center, Common Threads has worked within the community to address food insecurity, primarily by increasing joyful food education for youth.
As they move forward with serving youth through their school garden and cooking programming, Common Threads will keep working towards supporting youth development through seed to table education. You can look forward to seeing their newly developed food truck which will be providing social connection and summer meals to youth around the county where summer school meal distribution is difficult to access.
If you want to find out more about their programming and the work that they do in school districts and around the county, or if you’d like to get more involved through partnership or volunteering, you can visit their website at commonthreadsfarm.org or contact Laura Plaut at firstname.lastname@example.org