live / 2016

Nutrition and Garden Education for Underserved Children - Common Threads with The Kitchen Community

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by Common Threads

Common Threads and The Kitchen Community will deliver hands-on, school-based garden and nutrition education that empowers underserved kids to make healthier food choices and improves school wellness.


Are any other organizations collaborating on this proposal?

Common Threads will collaborate with The Kitchen Community (TKC) to train teachers in Los Angeles to lead experiential, school-based nutrition and garden education curricula for their students. TKC aims to improve the health of students and communities by creating experiential learning and garden-based education opportunities in low-income schools. TKC’s Learning Gardens are engaging outdoor classrooms that connect kids to real food, and increase academic achievement.

Please describe your project proposal.

Common Threads (CT) and The Kitchen Community will train teachers at 15 LA schools to deliver experiential, classroom- and garden-based nutrition education to 1,886 underserved students, grades preK-8. Each student will receive 8-16 hours of hands-on education that empowers them to make healthier food choices and connects them to fresh food. CT will also train teachers at six schools to utilize our new digital nutrition education platform Common Bytes, reaching an additional 480 kids.

Which of the live metrics will your proposal impact?​

  • Access to healthy food
  • Obesity

In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • County of Los Angeles
  • LAUSD

Describe in greater detail how your proposal will make LA the best place to live?

Common Threads (CT), in partnership with The Kitchen Community (TKC), will deliver hands-on nutrition and garden education programs to 2,366 underserved children (grades preK-8) throughout Los Angeles, providing these students with additional access to healthy, fresh food and empowering them to make healthier food choices that contribute to their reduced risk of obesity.

CT will train an estimated 240 teachers at up to six LA schools to implement our evaluation-supported Small Bites nutrition education curricula in their classrooms. A subset of these teachers will receive training to pilot our new Garden Bites curriculum, which pairs our Small Bites lessons with garden extension lessons collaboratively developed with TKC. At the same time, TKC will train an estimated 43 teachers at nine LA schools to pilot Garden Bites. We expect approximately 750 students to receive 8-12 hours of in-classroom nutrition education through Small Bites, and additionally that 1,136 students receive up to 16 hours through Garden Bites, for a total of at least 1,886 students reached through these teacher-delivered, school-based programs. Continuous program support and technical assistance will be provided to these schools by a trained CT staff member or TKC educator, setting the precedent within schools and their communities for long-term teacher support of school wellness that incorporates both the built environment and healthy lifestyles education.

Small Bites curriculum (versions available for preK-8 grades) consists of 8-12 hours of education for each student (eight 60- to 90-minute lessons) and includes lessons on choosing and preparing healthy snacks, reading nutrition labels, and understanding the importance of whole grains, lean proteins, and varied fruits and vegetables to long-term personal health. Lessons are aligned to Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards by grade level (K-8) and National Health Education Standards. Garden Bites includes the eight Small Bites lessons as well as eight garden extension lessons, during which teachers utilize plants and other gardening tools and concepts to reinforce the concepts learned in the nutrition lessons and to educate children on the lifecycle of different foods. Students will receive ample exposure to fruits and vegetables, so that the next time they see them in the cafeteria or at home, they’ll be more likely to try and enjoy them.

Alongside our proven curriculum, CT schools will receive access to our new Common Bytes digital nutrition education platform, and we expect to train 80 teachers to utilize Common Bytes in their classrooms, reaching an additional 480 youth. Common Bytes was developed in response to teacher feedback and teaches children nutrition and cooking skills and knowledge through recipes and interactive games. We will provide Common Bytes demo lessons in these teachers’ classrooms as well as ongoing technical assistance.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.​

CTs’ and TKC’s combined goals are to: 1) provide at least 1,886 students, grades preK-8, with 8-16 hours each of interactive nutrition and/or garden education; 2) increase student nutrition knowledge, vegetable liking, and communication to the family about healthy eating; and 3) increase use of school gardens by providing a STEM-aligned curriculum, training, and support to teachers. CT also seeks to roll out our Common Bytes platform in at least six schools with 80 teachers and 480 youth.

Evaluations consistently prove CTs’ Small Bites nutrition education improves student nutrition knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors. During the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years, we will measure the impact of Small Bites through our internal pre- and post-survey of a national random sample of student participants. We specifically expect to achieve the following outcomes:

  • 92% of students will have medium or high scores for vegetable liking;
  • 76% of students will agree or strongly agree that they tell their families about healthy eating; and
  • Students will be almost twice as likely to answer nutrition knowledge questions correctly.

We will also work with TKC during SY16-17 on a process evaluation of the pilot implementation of Garden Bites and during SY17-18 to evaluate student knowledge and behavior. We expect Garden Bites to achieve at least similar outcomes to those we achieved in the past through Small Bites, but hypothesize that impacts on student would be compounded.

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed?

  • Money
  • Volunteers
  • Publicity/awareness
  • Network/relationship support