Every bite of food we eat tells a story. Here’s ours:

The Free Library is advancing literacy in Philadelphia in a unique and innovative way–with a fork and a spoon. Cooking and eating are educational acts and provide opportunities to learn math, science, languages, history and so much more. Using cooking as the vehicle for learning, the Culinary Literacy Center advances literacy through food and cooking around a communal table.

Opened in 2014, the Culinary Literacy Center is the first space of its kind in a public library and serves as a model for libraries worldwide. The Culinary Literacy Center is based in our kitchen classroom at Parkway Central, but we offer programming at nearly all of our neighborhood libraries. Culinary Literacy Center programs teach healthy cooking, build community, and promote civic dialogue.

Every month, we host over 30 programs throughout the city. Register for an event and you might see:

  • Your favorite cookbook authors or local chefs demonstrating how to make a signature dish.
  • An immigrant-led cooking class, showcasing the diversity of tastes and cultures in Philadelphia.
  • A class of third graders experimenting with new foods and cooking a meal from scratch.
  • English-language learners practicing new words while making a new dish–and new friends.
  • A registered dietician showing how to build a healthy lifestyle, starting in the kitchen.

Pull up a seat at our table and see what’s cooking at the Free Library of Philadelphia!

A Toolkit for Public Libraries

The Culinary Literacy Center at the Free Library of Philadelphia created this toolkit to help other public libraries replicate their work and launch programs of their own.

Download PDF version

What is Culinary Literacy?

We define Culinary Literacy both as learning how to cook and learning literacy through cooking. There are multiple literacies we teach through the context of cooking: math, reading, writing, science, technology, health and nutrition, cultural, historical, and more. The possibilities are endless!

What types of programs do you offer?

  • We have programs for everyone:We offer programs to everyone from preschool students to senior citizens and everyone in between. We host classes that are open to the general public as well as those geared toward non-native English speakers, class trips from local schools, and adult literacy students. We even offer classes for families!
  • We cover many food interests: Our classes cover topics from knife skills to how to cook vegan soups and stews, from how to butcher an animal to demonstrations by some of Philadelphia’s best chefs! We have a series on cooking healthy meals with your family and a series that teaches about eating African Heritage foods.
  • We link our programming to the Library in innovative ways: Our programs tie in with other library initiatives like One Book, One Philadelphia, Author Events, and the exciting exhibits that the Free Library offers.
The Culinary Literacy Center has something for everyone!

How do I find your classes? How do I register for them?

You can find our classes right here at under Classes. Registration for the programs that are open to the public is at If you’d like to stay up to date on all of the happenings at the Culinary Literacy Center, you can subscribe to our monthly newsletter!

Are your programs free?

The majority of our programs are free! However, some of the classes do have a cost. You can find more details at All programs that have a cost will be clearly indicated in their description under Classes.
Anchors cook up a storm to ward off cancer
Philadelphia Daily News

FOX 29's Iain Page and Lucy Noland, and CBS3's Kathy Orr, cooked up a storm yesterday at the Free Library of Philadelphia's central branch for Cancer Treatment Centers of America's Thanksgiving Throwdown benefit.
Phila. Free Library Holds Healthy Cooking Classes with Focus on Military Vets
CBS Philly

This morning the Free Library of Philadelphia, on Logan Circle, hosted its second monthly session of “Chow Down with Veterans” in its fourth-floor culinary literacy center kitchen. “This program focuses on eating a plant-based diet, and so what we are trying to teach them is how to cook delicious, nutritious, easy meals,” says culinary literacy specialist Liz Fitzgerald.
Starting from scratch
Philadelphia Inquirer

The new commercial kitchen at the Free Library of Philadelphia is, by far, the most beautiful, tricked-out kitchen in which I've ever cooked.
My Daughter’s Kitchen program keeps expanding

The mission has not changed as much as it has expanded since the lessons began with my own daughter in 2012: to convince not only students, but also parents and teachers - and our readers - that it's possible to cook fresh, healthy, really tasty meals without spending a lot. (This program is held at Parkway Central’s Culinary Literacy Center with students from the Russell Byers Charter School)
Breakfast burrito a winner in school culinary test

Randolph's winning recipe, cooked up by a team of students at the Free Library's Culinary Literacy Center on Thursday morning, will appear on the menu at all 86 of the district's full-service cafeterias.
GSK’s $5M to Philly groups helping kids eat better

The announcement was made at The Free Library's fourth-floor renovated meeting room, which has a wonderful view of the city skyline. Across the hall is a new teaching kitchen to provide space for Philly kids to learn how to cook, with the hope being they will dish up for themselves and families healthy meals to help cut into the city's obesity rate.
Let a master teach you the tricks of friend chicken

Erwin will share the techniques required to execute her fried chicken, through the Culinary Literacy Center at the Central Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia. Plenty of warning: Tuesday, June 2 at 6 p.m. at 1901 Vine Street. Theme is "Fried chicken in less than an hour."
Improving literacy, one recipe at a time

In between chugging olive oil and cracking wise, he imparted knife skills, food-preparation techniques, and a killer panzanella recipe to a crowd that included restaurant workers with limited English, kids finding their way around the kitchen for the first time, and parents and grandparents navigating their families' nutritional needs. These are some of the demographics that will be served by the Free Library's new Culinary Literacy Center, which opened Monday with demonstrations from Vetri and fellow chef Jose Garces.

The foundation of the Culinary Literacy Center is built on strong partnerships and collaborations with other like-minded organizations, city agencies, library, staff, and individuals. Each partnership opportunity brings our unique strengths and experience together to create a robust program for our shared constituents. Without them, we would be hard pressed to reach the achievements we have over the past year. Read more about our partners below.

  • Vetri Community Partnership
  • Nationalities Service Center
  • Oldways
  • Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger
  • The Food Trust
  • Greensgrow
  • Honeypie Cooking
  • Drexel University’s Center for Hospitality and Sport Management
  • The Franklin Institute
  • Fair Food
  • Careers Through Culinary Arts Program
  • The Humane League
  • Penn State Extensions
  • Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative
  • School District of Philadelphia

The Free Library of Philadelphia’s Culinary Literacy Center is grateful to the following for their generous support of our programs:

  • The Claneil Foundation
  • Dry Family Charitable Foundation
  • GSK
  • The Leo & Peggy Pierce Family Foundation
  • The Walmart Foundation