July 27, 2021
In a previous blog, I shared a great deal of information about the new Green Hills Library Center and the Culinary Literacy Center it will house. Modeled after successful programs in Philadelphia and Fayetteville, this will be the first such service in our region. Despite this, I think it’s fair to ask why it makes sense to have this at Mid-Continent Public Library.
The first thing to consider is MCPL’s strategic direction. Our Library mission is to “enrich our citizens and communities through expanding access to innovation, information, ideas, and inspiration.” While this mission is somewhat broad, it’s no challenge to see how a culinary literacy center accomplishes this. In addition, MCPL’s first strategic priority is that the Library will “cultivate literacy skills that prepare children and families for lifelong success.” Establishing a foundation of skills that benefit one over a lifetime, like culinary literacy, aligns with this priority.
With this in mind, my colleague Amy Lamont from Fayetteville Public Library and I put together the following key points on why public libraries, especially MCPL, should support culinary literacy:
- Information from the FMI Foundation indicates there is exceptional benefit to families eating together, including higher grades for students. FMI also shows that teens are less likely to show signs of violence, depression, and suicide, and less likely to entertain other risky behaviors, with each additional shared family meal. In addition to benefits for kids, adults who eat at home tend to be much healthier.
- However, many parents do not feel equipped to take up the challenge of cooking at home without help. Interestingly, 96 percent of parents in the U.S. feel it is important that their children know how to cook or bake, but only 33 percent cook with their children weekly, and 47 percent cook with their children monthly or less.
- Culinary skills are a great alternate avenue for early learning. In an article from Eating Well, the authors indicated that cooking teaches children patience and how to follow directions, among other outcomes. There are also STEM benefits to observing scientific principles that occur during food preparation and learning about fractions while cutting vegetables or measuring ingredients.
- Empowerment and self-reliance come with culinary literacy. The Alliance to End Hunger suggests that providing nutrition education and cooking classes encourages healthy eating and has exponential effects throughout a person’s life. In addition, many people, including recent immigrants, often turn to food-based businesses as a career path. Exposing people to skills in culinary literacy can turn an interest into a vocation and lead to self-reliance.
Helping children and families cultivate literacy skills prepares them for lifelong success and expands career opportunities—two things MCPL is proud to support.
Steven V. Potter
MCPL Director and CEO
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