In 2014, the Free Library of Philadelphia opened their Culinary Learning Center at their Parkway Central branch. In 2018, they defined culinary literacy for public libraries as the ALA Midwinter meeting in Denver. Last year, a Public Libraries Online article detailed how to host cooking programs without having access to a kitchen. Hosting programs around cooking increases financial and/or health literacy and also offers the opportunity for tie-ins to cultural celebrations, cookbooks, and more. From small rural libraries with heat plates to multi-branch libraries with culinary learning centers, public libraries have embraced food-based programs.
Marcela Cabello and Stuart M. Butler discuss the importance of public libraries as community hubs in this article. They state that public libraries are shifting their focus from book collection to providing community services for various groups in their community. As the library becomes a place where individuals go to participate in activities, the library becomes more than just a book repository. As a part of Library Week 2018, Robert James looks at how public libraries are seen as “communal institutions that offer access, not just to literature and information, but the company of other people.”
One of the most common ways that communities build relationships is through the breaking of bread, or communal eating. In this article, R. I. M. Dunbar refers to communal eating as a universal human experience where more than one person shares food with another. Dunbar’s article points out that these social experiences have always been present in human societies and that they increase endorphin production in participants and correlate to a greater sense of well-being. Since public libraries act as a community hub where individuals feel safe and come for social connection, it makes sense that public libraries would be a place where communal eating and cooking might occur.
Interested in starting a food program at your library? Here are some links to more information.
Adult Cooking Programs in the Library – Make it Happen (floridalibrarywebinars.org. Webinar, July, 2019).
Cooking the Books – Libraries Embrace Culinary Programming (Perspectives on Reading, by Stacy Alesi, October, 2019).
Library Kitchens and Cooking Programs – Webjunction (by Jennifer Peterson, March 3, 2016).
Culinary Literacy: A Recipe for Cooking Up Literacy and Community (Webinar, Webjunction – December, 2016).
Cooking Classes Without a Kitchen – NNLM (National Network of Libraries of Medicine – Video of Past Webinar).
A Recipe for Reading: Culinary Literacy at Your Library(Programming Librarian – Recording of Past Webinar).