08/05/2011 11:17 am ET Updated Oct 05, 2011

Food Therapy

As our nation recovers from the recent battle over raising the debt ceiling in Washington DC, a recent Washington Post and Pew Research Center poll found that a vast majority of Americans thought the entire process was "ridiculous," "disgusting," "stupid" and "frustrating." While the poll didn't explore why people are so disgusted with Congress, I have a feeling it's because we all witnessed an epic breakdown in communication, with our leaders often talking at one another instead of talking with and listening to each other.

As I reflect on the events of last several weeks and the paralyzing partisan divide in Washington DC, I can't help but think of my work with Common Threads. Through the simple act of teaching low-income kids how to cook wholesome affordable meals from around the world, coupled with encouraging our families to eat together, I have witnessed the power of food to help bridge cultural differences, create connections and, ultimately, mutual understanding.

Food is both a common denominator -- we all have to eat -- and one of the most powerful forms of expression. Consequently it offers a unique way to learn about each other. So much about a culture is conveyed through their food, from the spices to types of vegetables and meats that are used. As I've seen with the amazing kids who participate in Common Threads, simply trying foods from different places helps create acceptance and understanding. Think of it this way -- even if you've never been to New Orleans, you can get an intrinsic feel for the city through a bowl of gumbo.

Of course, food is not only a way for us to learn about each other, but it provides us with a daily opportunity to bring us together, literally and figuratively. Just as fresh fruits, vegetables, healthy grains and lean meats nourish our minds and bodies, eating together nourishes our relationships. Every meal offers us the chance to put our to-do lists on hold -- even for 45 minutes -- and engage with one another. These unguarded moments are when we discover the seemingly small commonalities -- such as a mutual love of brussel sprouts or a shared favorite band, which connect us, despite our differences.

It is with this in mind that I am extending an open invitation to all of our U.S. Senators and Representatives to come to a Common Threads class in Washington DC to share a healthy, delicious meal prepared by our incredibly talented kids. They may not walk away agreeing with one another, but I believe, as Common Threads has shown me time and again, that sitting down together will help to bridge their differences, promote understanding and get everyone talking -- and listening -- to each other.