The Cooking Library is designed to give patrons access to kitchen equipment and cooking instruction while also building community reading, mathematics, science, and relationship building skills.
Description of Community
This program aims to engage low income community members of all ages, specifically those who may not have had the chance to learn about cooking at home or in school (Ford, 2018).
Action Brief Statement
Convince low income community members that by participating in Cooking Library programs and lending services they will enhance their culinary and general literacy skills which will impact both their bodies and their minds because cooking for yourself is a great way to stay healthy, learn, and save money.
Evidence and Resources
- Alesi, S. (2019). Cooking the books: Libraries embrace culinary programming.
- Bahringer, A. (2018). Adult programming: How to have cooking demos without cooking.
- Brady, A. (2019). Edible Alphabet offers cooking classes with a side of language.
- Dinkelspiel, F. (2019). Need a sous vide machine? Or electric mixer? Berkeley Public Library to begin lending kitchen tools
- Ewen, L. (2018). A Movable Feast: Libraries use mobile kitchens to teach food literacy.
- Free Library of Philadelphia. (n.d). Culinary literacy: a toolkit for public libraries.
- Hutchins, S. (2015). If you feed them, they will come.
- Mabaso, A. (2014) Building the library of the future here in Philadelphia.
- Michaelson, E. (2013). Toronto’s Kitchen Library brings appliances to all.
- Morris, L. (2015). Healthy foods competition heats up at Crandon Public Library.
- Morris, L. (2015). St. Charles Parish Library address food insecurity with personal support.
- S. M. (2014). Come see what’s cooking: Announcing our new Culinary Literacy Center!
- Steenson, J. (2015). Programming model: Cookbook challenge.
- Tomsu, L. (2017). How to start a baking club at the library.
Lectures & Webinars:
Mission, Guidelines, and Policy
The Cooking Library aims to promote general and culinary literacy to low income community members of all ages through programming, kitchen equipment lending, and community participation.
The library would like to utilize a participatory service model by creating a Community Cooking Library programming board composed of library patrons (6 adults and 4 YA members). This board will work with adult and YA programming directors to develop the Cooking Library program through a series of community meetings. It is inspired by the Oakland Public Library’s Youth Leadership Council, but will invite members of all ages. Once we have developed our program proposal, we will invite our community board members to present the proposal with us to the library Board of Supervisors for approval.
As displayed in the Evidence & Resource section of this blog post, there are many libraries that we can look at for example policies and practices. Libraries across the US are implementing culinary literacy services at a variety of levels for a variety of community members.
One of the most important aspects to consider in the guidelines for use of the cooking library will inevitably be safety. This involves both kitchen and food safety, ensuring that no one is hurt by improperly cooked food or improperly used equipment. There are several ways which we could do this. Any library employee who is running a Cooking class should be accredited in a ServSafe program and include important safety information in the programming curriculum. The Cooking equipment lending library should follow a set of rules and regulations similar to those implemented in the Berkeley Public Library’s tool lending library. This might include age restrictions or requirements that Cooking Lending Library participants complete a “Kitchen Equipment and Food Safety Program” before they are eligible to borrow equipment. The Free Library of Philadelphia, also emphasizes the importance of city food license and certification measures as well as food allergy awareness (p. 9).
Funding to build an onsite kitchen library would require considerable grant money. The Culinary Literacy Center at the Free Library of Philadelphia cost $1.2 million. It is estimated that a similar program would cost the same. Philadephia offers some great ideas for creative funding, including working with local markets and community gardens to get free or low-cost ingredients. The library could also accept donations of working kitchen tools and equipment. Other funding could come from program fees for special programs and food and bake sales. The library could also invite local chefs to volunteer their time to teach specific programs.
Action Steps & Timeline
If we choose to develop a full on-site library kitchen and lending library, physical prototype will be difficult. However, we can still develop an in-depth written proposal supplemented by kitchen blueprints and 3D renderings.
A reasonable timeline for this project is projected at 1.5 years. This would allow for:
- 4-6 months of initial community planning.
- 3-4 months of initial proposals, editing, and approval.
- Approximately 8 months to construct the kitchen, finalize programming, receive appropriate licensing and training, and acquire lending equipment.
This project is dependent on both Library Board for funding, spacial allotments, and resources. It is also dependent on approval by city officials for health inspections and food service licensing. Both approvals are required to fully implement an on-site Cooking Library.
If the program receives a “no” there are other ways to introduce culinary literacy. Examples include “cooking without cooking”, recipe swaps, and partnering with local food and health programs. Libraries can also provide cooking programming without the use of a full kitchen through tools such as hot plates and convection ovens. Ideally, we will spend some time “brainstorming potential problems and solutions” (Stephens, 2016) during our community meetings so that we may come equipped with response. I suspect that bringing community voices in this discussion will allow for a much broader scope of ideas, issues, and viewpoints.
This service does not require hiring any additional staff. Hours will come from the allotted staff hours for library programming. Some additional hours may be required for hosting community development meetings during mornings or evenings, as those are often the best times for working community members. Funding for additional hours could come from grants or miscellaneous library funds. Another interesting way to generate funding for addition staff hours would to host a library food/bake sale in which plates are sold to raise money for the program. This could be implemented by library staff or, more ideally, the Friends of the Library community. Libraries could also partner with local schools to give students volunteer hours for helping with Cooking Library services, but this would still require staff member participation and oversight.
The most essential component of training would come from ServSafe accreditation. Fortunately, ServSafe includes a pre-planned curriculum covering all aspects of food and kitchen safety that the library can utilize. The library will have to allot some funding for ServSafe fees, which range from $15 to $150 dollars. However, only program heads will require the larger cost training, everyone else can get a food handlers license for $15 dollars. Several other staff members should also be trained in the Allergen course, which requires an additional $22. This training is all online and can be scheduled during staff shifts. Once this is completed, the program heads will also train staff on programming and lending library procedures. This can be done in several large groups and should only require several hours of staff time.
Promotion & Marketing
The library can use traditional marketing strategies such as flyers and social media promotion to increase awareness of the program. Libraries can also team up with local food markets and restaurants to promote the services. Another interesting marketing strategy would to be to team up with the library bookmobile and offer a “food truck” that travels alongside it. The “food truck” could give out pre-prepared foods that are included in the library programming. People love free food and when they come to get it, they will learn about how they could come to the library to make it themselves!
I also think about the recent success and virality of online cooking video series such as Bon Apetit’s Gourmet Makes and Buzzfeed’s Tasty videos. Library staff could make creative cooking videos in a strain similar to these and post them to YouTube. The videos could end by promoting the Cooking Library service. Not only would they work as a promotional tool, but they would be providing additional information to the public about culinary literacy and skills.
Success will be measured in terms of patron interactions and participation. Primary evaluation could come by asking participants to fill out an exit survey post-programming. This would allow us to continue to evaluate the Cooking Library and allow it to grow positively in relation to public response. Additional evaluation can be measured through attendance and kitchen tool circulation. As Stephens and Casey (2008) suggest, just chatting with patrons and getting anecdotal evaluations is also a great way to measure success.
A great result of the Cooking Library that I envision would be to invite patrons to share how they have implemented their cooking literacy into their own lives. This could include programming where patrons who have used Cooking Library services share their new favorite recipes with each other at a community potluck. Another way of showcasing our patron’s cooking would be to create a whole program in which we highlight specific patron’s recipes and invite them to help teach the class.