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Here to Help Nourish Students of All Ages

Fresh Mint
Fresh Mint
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Academic Partner

Osher Center for Integrative Health (OCIH) at Northwestern University ascribes to the concept of “food as medicine”, and believes nutrition is critical to disease prevention and treatment. We have been exploring strategies to solve the current lack of adequate training in nutrition in medical school curriculum, with its downstream effect of a physician workforce lacking skills necessary to effectively counsel patients in how to change food-related behaviors. OCIH is a member of the Teaching Kitchen Collaborative, a consortium of influential organizations committed to improving health through healthy eating and cooking. 

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Community Partner

Common Threads (CT) aspires to build communities that embrace healthy cooking, healthy eating and celebration of culture through cooking and nutrition education classes that encourage healthy habits which contribute to wellness. Since inception, CT has reached nearly 650,000 students and adults, trained over 17,000 teachers, and provided over 3.7 million snacks and meals with over 5 million hours of education. CT operates across the United States in partnership with schools, school districts, community organizations, and healthcare systems. A hallmark of the programming is hands-on, experiential learning by cooking. Past external and internal evaluations indicate that CT programming brings about statistically significant improvements in nutrition knowledge, exposure to, liking for, and consumption of vegetables, communication within the family about healthy eating, preference for home-cooked meals, and confidence in cooking skills. Common Threads’ curriculum has been reviewed and approved by Chicago Public Schools, Los Angeles Unified School District, New York City Department of Education, and the USDA’s National SNAP-Education Toolkit. They are a proud member of the Healthy Out of School Time Coalition and National Ally of the CACFP program.


Community, Education, Prevention

Common Threads believes cooking is a life skill. Through our hands-on cooking programs and nutrition education, Common Threads provides a preventative health program solution in urban schools to children, families and teachers in underserved communities.




Co-course creator

Dr. Melinda Ring serves as Director of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Northwestern University, and Clinical Associate Professor in the Departments of Medicine and Medical Social Sciences at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.


She completed her medical training at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, and Fellowship in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona. At Northwestern, Dr. Ring directs  medical trainee education and clinical and faculty fellowships in integrative medicine, founded the Cooking Up Health culinary medicine course, and researches nutrition and integrative strategies. She contributes to textbooks, research articles in the field of Women’s Health and Integrative Medicine, has published several books on integrative medicine including The Natural Menopause Solution, and is a frequent contributor to news outlets.


Dr. Ring also serves as vice-chair for the American Board of Integrative Medicine, on the Steering Committee of the Academic Consortium for Integrative Medicine and Health, and on the editorial boards of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine and Global Advances in Health and Medicine. In 2021 she received the Bravewell Distinguished Service Award, one of the highest honors in the field of integrative health.



Co-Course Creator

Rupa Mahadevan completed a specialized fellowship in Integrative Medicine through the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Northwestern University and the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. Prior to medical school, Rupa worked as a nutrition counselor, and she is passionate about educating parents to cook healthy, low-cost meals for their children. After her fellowship she acted as Associate Director for Education at Northwestern’s Integrative Medicine Center and helped develop the CUH course. 


She is a Pediatrician with a holistic approach to health and wellness and she believes the best medicine is teaching prevention through education.  She has a unique interest in food as medicine and tries to incorporate food prescriptions in all her patient encounters.


Dr. Mahadevan currently directs the Lifestyle and Integrative Medicine Clinic focused on cancer survivorship and well-being at Feist-Weiller Cancer Center. She also runs a pediatric weight management clinic program and directs the culinary medicine program for LSU medical students.


Senior User Experience Researcher at Hinge

Elaine was a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical Social Sciences at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, who now is a Senior User Experience Researcher at Hinge.


She received her PhD in Social Psychology from Northwestern University and completed a National Science Foundation Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences and Osher Center for Integrative Medicine postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Medical Social Sciences at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Her program of research investigated the factors that promote psychological adjustment in the context of serious life stress, particularly health-related stress.


She has a strong interest in exploring wellness strategies and interventions that decrease the risk of burnout.



Co-Course Creator

Ms. Folkens began volunteering with Common Threads in 2010 and joined the CT staff in 2011 as a Chef Instructor. Since then, she has held the roles of Program Coordinator, Curricula and Quality Assurance Manager, Director of Programs, and currently is the Vice President of Programs. She oversees the organization’s programs and education teams.


During her tenure at Common Threads, she has worked closely with the evaluation team to refine culinary focused programs and piloted, designed and authored the CT Small Bites nutrition education program. Prior to Common Threads, Ms. Folkens worked as a middle school math teacher in Houston, TX, through Teach for America.


Ms. Folkens holds a culinary arts degree from Kendall College and a bachelor’s degree in Marketing from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and is currently pursuing an MBA through the University of Chicago Booth’s Civic Scholars program. She’s published in several academic journals including the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior, the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.


Meet Our Instructor


Associate Director of Education, Osher Center for Integrative Health

Dr. Shannahan is currently Associate Director of Education at the Osher Center for Integrative Health at Northwestern in Chicago, Illinois, as well as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Northwestern. She served as Chief Resident in Family Medicine at Northwestern University, and completed 2 Fellowships in Integrative Medicine, with Dr. Andrew Weil at the University of Arizona & with the Osher Center for Integrative Health at Northwestern. 

As an athlete who has completed 12 marathons & 9 triathlons, and figure skating coach who earned a US Figure Skating Association Gold Medal, she is passionate about diet, exercise, and helping others achieve their health goals. 

She is heavily involved in advocacy on a local and national level, working to bring nutrition and cooking workshops to underserved areas, and has presented her work at the Integrative Medicine for the Underserved National Conference.

She maintains involvement in primary care on a national level with the American Academy of Family Physicians, & currently serves as an elected Board Member of the Illinois Academy of Family Physicians. Dr. Shannahan also is a certified Wilderness First Responder and member of the Wilderness Medical Society.

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