• 8

    Celebrate International Literacy Day with the Free Library!

    by Kate C.

    Happy International Literacy Day! Literacy is, of course, very near and dear to our hearts here at the Free Library, and a core tenet of our mission to serve Philadelphians. And while everyone knows libraries are literacy hubs, what you might not realize are the varying types of literacy we aim to promote all year round!

    Not sure what we're talking about? Here are a few examples:

    Culinary Literacy
    Opened in June of 2014, the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Culinary Literacy Center (CLC), located on the fourth floor of the Parkway Central Library on Vine Street, aims to revolutionize the way Philadelphians think about food and nutrition. The CLC offers a range of classes and programs with an emphasis on learning math via measuring, reading via recipes, and science via the cooking process. The classes also teach consumer skills that help parents make recipes that fit the needs of their family.



    Health Literacy
    The Free Library has a variety of programs and resources dedicated to promoting health in the community. The South Philadelphia Library located at 1700 S. Broad Street is a part of the brand new Community Health and Literacy Center, comprised of the Free Library, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), the City of Philadelphia’s Health Center 2, and the DiSilvestro Recreation Center. The Free Library also offers yoga classes, disease prevention programs, meditation workshops, flu shot clinics, Medicare information sessions, and many more health-minded events at neighborhood library locations across the city.

    Digital Literacy
    The Free Library wants all Philadelphians to be able to keep up with the ever-changing times! From a digital- and technology-literacy perspective, we offer classes in subjects like email basics, PowerPoint and Excel software, and social media, while also offering a weekly E-Gadget Help Desk, where patrons can learn how to better utilize that new iPad, e-reader, smartphone, or tablet.


    Media Literacy
    We live in a world where information is always available at our fingertips. The Free Library has resources to help the public navigate this ever-changing, ever-growing, overwhelming media landscape, and can also point you in the right direction if you're looking for more.

    For additional interesting facts about some of the more non-traditional literacy efforts taking place at the Free Library, showcasing what we do outside library walls and apart from simply lending books (although, we love that, too!), follow our #BeyondTheShelves hashtag on social media!

    literacy Digital Literacy digital media culinary literacy Health digital learning

  • 23

    An Interview with Doug Barg of Kitchen Cred

    by Caitlin S.

    Each month the Regional Foundation Center's Inforum newsletter features a local funder, nonprofit, or service provider who highlights their organization's services and how they support the social sector. This month we are excited to have Doug Barg, founder and president of Kitchen Cred to talk about the organization's work with teens and how the RFC has helped his organization.

    My organization changes the lives of... teens. Of course, with the onslaught of fast food ads, bullying, food deserts, opioid addiction, performance pressure, and stress about body image, who in middle-school or high-school is not at-risk? To date, we have worked with teens living across the Delaware Valley from Exton to Camden. 

    How do you change the lives of the people you serve?
    Seven pairs of eyes focus on the thin disk of batter in the pan, as the teen cook steadies himself for his first attempt. With a determined look and a quick, almost assured, flick of the wrist, he launches the crepe spinning into the air.  His team draws in a breath in anticipation – and he sticks the landing, golden brown side up, back in the pan. His teammates—a chef, adults, and other teens—spontaneously burst into applause. 

    Middle school and high school is a period of challenge and change, to put it mildly. Kitchen Cred provides skills, perspectives, and success to support the journey from child to adult. Under the guidance of culinary pros, teens acquire the fundamentals of cooking, nutrition, food safety, and food economics. Simultaneously, they develop a range of competencies including leadership, project planning, and career options, all the while building self-esteem. The shared experience of cooking paves the way for open, genuine conversations between teens and adults.

    Currently, Kitchen Cred’s menu of programs comes in two formats: a six-session Short Program and single-session, themed Pop-Ups. Pop-Up themes include holidays, career exposure, and college admissions. Our newest career exposure program, Career Bowls, was created in collaboration with the local chapter of the NFL Alumni Association. It introduces teens to sports-related careers ranging from sports broadcasting to custom tailoring suits for pro-footballer frames.

    Kitchen Cred connects with youth through partners such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, YouthBuild Philly Charter School, Youth Service, Inc., Triskeles, and LUCY Outreach. Incorporated in January of 2013 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Kitchen Cred’s program has won recognition in the Independence Blue Cross Game Changers Challenge and the Philadelphia Social Innovation Journal’s 2017 Social Innovator Award for Education.

    How has the RFC helped your organization? 
    It’s hard to name all the ways in which the RFC has aided Kitchen Cred. To the extent that we know how to craft a grant proposal, it is thanks to the RFC workshop series. The Regional Foundation Center makes the Free Library a focal point, a nexus, a mixing bowl for Philly’s nonprofit community in a way that no other entity comes close to. From Benevon to the PHILO Project (see below), I can’t name all the mutually beneficial and strategically important relationships that germinated at one of the myriad panel discussions, meet-ups, and classes organized or hosted by the RFC. 

    In addition to my role at Kitchen Cred, I also chair the Nonprofit Subgroup of Beacon, a networking group of about a thousand experienced, committed C-level professionals. The members of our subgroup are nonprofit leaders or sit on nonprofit boards across the region. My belief that the RFC is a unique (and vastly under-recognized) resource, led me to arrange a breakfast meeting and orientation session for our members with RFC staff at the library. It’s safe to say the Beacon folks came away from the session chagrined that they had not known about this gem of a resource hidden on the Parkway and elated that they could share their new find with their boards and staff.

    What tools and resources have been most helpful in growing and sustaining your organization?
    The RFC forges a wide range of tools and experiences that have helped Kitchen Cred grow and thrive. Consequently, it’s hard to pick a "most helpful" tool. Learning about Network for Good and Benevon have shaped our fundraising. Our communications strategies and tactics are rooted in the Center’s workshops and panel discussions on social media and nonprofit marketing.   But perhaps most importantly, Kitchen Cred derives its dynamic energy from collaboration. Each nonprofit event at the RFC opens doors to new relationships and triggers new program ideas.  The number and quality of RFC events constantly stoke the creative fire for us.

    Can you speak about a time you successfully collaborated with another organization? 
    When people visit our website, or we make a presentation to a new agency partner, prospective board member, or possible sponsor, one of the first things they see is a masterful video created by the PHILO Project. The quality of the piece conveys an image of professionalism and competence that drives volunteer engagement and paves the way for serious conversations. It’s been a real game changer for us. 

    The PHILO Project is itself a nonprofit that creates professionally produced, highly impactful videos for other nonprofits at no cost. We first learned of PHILO and met founder Gerald Kolpan at an RFC showcase event. 

    What is something awesome that people may not know about your organization?
    Our Chef’s Table, the group of culinary pros who help us and lead our programs, includes chefs who have appeared on Iron Chef, Top Chef, Chopped, Hell’s Kitchen, and Bar Rescue.

    Thanks Doug for sharing the great work your organization does to help at-risk teens. For nonprofit organizations interested in learning how the RFC can help their organization check out our resources or make an appointment with a librarian! 

    Teens culinary literacy Business Resource & Innovation Center nonprofit

  • 16

    Summer Food Service Program and Neighborhood Libraries Help Keep Children Fed While School's Out

    by Liz G.

    During the academic year, many of Philadelphia’s public school students receive subsidized meals from their school. When summer break rolls around though, where can Philly’s kids get a nutritious daily meal? The answer, as surprising as it may be, is the library!

    This summer, three of Philadelphia’s 50+ neighborhood library locationsMcPherson Square Library, Ramonita G. de Rodriguez Library, and Queen Memorial Library—have been offering free lunches and snacks to kids and teens 18 and under, as well as to anyone over age 18 enrolled in school programs for persons with disabilities.

    These fresh daily meals are provided through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), a federally funded program operated nationally by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered in Pennsylvania by the Department of Education. Organizations such as recreation centers, churches, and libraries may sponsor the program and provide high quality nutrition to youth in their communities during the summer months.

    At the Queen Memorial Library in South Philadelphia’s Point Breeze neighborhood, approximately forty children are fed each day through the SFSP, which is offered in the library’s public meeting room. The Friends of Queen Memorial Library president, Betty Beaufort, along with Library Assistant Juanita Wilburn (pictured), are trained and certified to administer the daily meals and snacks. Personal pizzas, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and yogurt are some of the favorites of the kids and teens that frequent the library. The SFSP also draws in more kids and families to participate in other library programs such as the Summer Reading Game, storytimes, and more! The Queen Memorial Library will be offering free lunches from 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m., and a snack from 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m., through Friday September 1.

    The 21st century public library is undoubtedly more than just books! Through offerings such as the Summer Food Service Program, libraries are showcasing a commitment to improving the well-being of their customers beyond the bounds of literacy alone. By transforming its image from a stuffy reading room into a vibrant hub of knowledge and support, the library establishes itself as an invaluable public resource that will persist as a brick-and-mortar institution well into the digital age.

    children's programs culinary literacy community neighborhood libraries

  • 13

    Teen Discovers New Views on Food with Get HYPE Philly!

    by Brittany B.

    At 15-years-old, Elba remembers first hearing about "healthy food" in elementary school. She says it was a no-questions-asked type of learning though; staff would simply hand out the food to students and succinctly say, "Here, this is healthy." While she learned certain foods were healthier than others, she says she never understood why, so her eating habits didn’t really change.

    Something clicked, though, when Elba attended her first Get HYPE Philly! program at the Free Library of Philadelphia in fall 2016. The program is part of a city-wide initiative for youth development, funded by GSK, and brought to teens by several organizations.

    "I’m not usually good at cooking but [Get HYPE! Philly] makes you feel like you’re good at it," says Elba. "One time we made sweet potato fries and we were cutting potatoes; I had never cut a potato before—how to hold it, how to cut it. Now we know why this food is healthy, why it’s good for us, and we know how to make it!"

    Elba says the program also encouraged her to reflect on what she drinks and eats, and why. "GHP made me look at things differently... It made me look at food and say, ‘Why would I eat this?’ We made a really good citrus water drink and now, maybe instead of drinking soda or fake juice all the time, I will drink water."

    The program also helps teens develop critical soft skills such as communication, teamwork, and leadership. In one particularly memorable lesson, Elba says she had a positive experience working together with fellow teens to make a pizza quesadilla.

    "[Get HYPE! Philly] sends out a very positive message," says Elba. "I wish your grant was more than three years."

    Teens, Join Us
    Get HYPE Philly!'s free culinary literacy programs happen at varying times on Tuesdays and Thursdays at several free library locations. We encourage anyone ages 12 to 18-years-old to come check it out! Find out more by liking Get HYPE Philly! on Facebook or following us on Twitter and Instagram.

    Get HYPE Philly! is made possible with generous support from GSK.

    Events at the Library Teens culinary literacy

  • 7

    Good Vibes Only at Get HYPE Philly!

    by Brittany B.

    A 10th grader at Charter High School for Architecture and Design (CHAD), committed teen leadership assistant (TLA) at the Free Library of Philadelphia, and basketball player for his school team, Amir Evers knows good food fuels good work. But he never found himself in the kitchen until he joined Get HYPE Philly! (GHP)—a city-wide initiative for youth development, funded by GSK and brought to teens by several organizations including the Free Library.

    At Parkway Central Library and the North Philadelphia libraries, GHP is primarily known for food education where teens have fun learning through cooking. Lessons often incorporate topics such as nutrition and culture as well as opportunities to practice hard and soft skills like science, math, teamwork, and flexibility.

    "[Get HYPE Philly!] has a good vibe," says Amir. "It’s a program that helps youth learn cooking and simple techniques that… are better than buying [food] at a corner store."

    Amir is a TLA at the Ramonita G. de Rodriguez Library and—despite an initial hesitation—now has one of the highest GHP attendance rates for the library, participating in nearly one dozen lessons on recipes such as smoothie making and homemade granola bars. The popcorn-making class, where students learned how to season and popcorn kernels in a skillet, remains Amir’s favorite.

    "Each time we did a new thing, I made sure I paid attention and enjoyed doing it, especially with the popcorn," says Amir. "I tasted almost every [spice] until I finally found [the combination] of things that made it taste right."

    Culinary Collaboration Coordinator Aurora Sanchez remembers the popcorn making class, too. "We took our time smelling and discussing lots of different herbs and spices together before making the popcorn," says Aurora. "At the end of the program, Amir wanted me to taste his popcorn explaining that he had worked diligently on blending the spices to perfection. It tasted like a healthy popcorn you would buy, with its light, sweet and savory flavor. I was genuinely impressed and pleased that he immersed himself in seasoning the popcorn, trying multiple combinations until he created a legitimately marketable healthy snack."

    Amir says Get HYPE Philly! is critical for teaching teens other lessons too, like knife safety, hygiene, and keeping an open mind.

    "When I sit around with my grandma or other people now I’ll tell them, 'You didn’t wash your hands yet' or about healthier food," shares Amir.

    Moving forward, Amir plans to continue cooking with GHP while also working towards a special design and engineering program. Meanwhile, Get HYPE Philly! will continue to help even more teens like Amir prepare to be successful in their communities.

    Teens, Join Us
    Get HYPE Philly!'s free culinary literacy programs happen from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays at several neighborhood library locations. We encourage anyone ages 12 to 18-years-old to come check it out! Download our Get HYPE Philly! Programs Calendar or browse for our events online.

    You can also like Get HYPE Philly! on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram!
    Get HYPE Philly! is made possible with generous support from GSK.

    Events at the Library Teens culinary literacy Get HYPE Philly

  • 26

    Fruit Sparkling Water Recipe in 4 Easy Steps

    by Brittany B.

    As summer heats up, stay cool with this fruit soda recipe from Get HYPE! Philly!

    Under the guidance of Chef Shawn Murray, teens at our Kensington Library used a blender to learn how to puree ingredients. Using only fruit and sparkling water, the drink is a simple and sweet summertime treat. Plus, they learned a key lesson about seasonality: if you use fresh, in-season fruit, then you can jam-pack a dish with flavor without needing any artificial sweeteners.

    Delicious and nutritious? Yes, please!

    Watermelon and Kiwi Fruit Sparkling Water (serves 4)


    • 4 cups watermelon, cleaned and diced
    • 2 kiwi fruit
    • 1 quart sparkling water
    • 1 can lemon water (optional)


    • Peel the watermelon; remove seeds, and cut into small pieces.
    • Peel the kiwi fruit and combine with the watermelon in blender.
    • Pour in sparkling water and blend.
    • Pour fruit water mixture over ice; if desired, top with lemon water.

    Teens, Join Us!
    Get HYPE Philly!'s free culinary literacy programs happen at varying times on Tuesdays and Thursdays at several Free Library locations. We encourage anyone ages 12 to 18-years-old to come check it out! Find out more by liking Get HYPE Philly! on Facebook or following us on Twitter and Instagram.

    Get HYPE Philly! is made possible with generous support from GSK.

    Events at the Library Teens culinary literacy Get HYPE Philly

  • 10

    Summer Thyme Cooks - Apply Now!

    by Jamie B.

    The Culinary Literacy Center is excited to present Summer Thyme Cooks, a fresh approach to learning about cooking, collaboration, and cost.

    Summer Thyme Cooks is a FREE, four-part summer cooking program for kids and teens entering grades 5-12. In four weekly hands-on classes, students will learn basic cooking skills, including how to read a recipe, how to prepare seasonal fruits and vegetables, and how to stay safe in the kitchen. Food is meant to be shared, so every Summer Thyme Cooks class ends with a family-style meal. Students go home each week with a new recipe and a grocery bag filled with healthy, fresh, budget-conscious ingredients so they can cook with their families!

    Apply online or pick up a paper application in the Parkway Central Children’s Department or Teen Central in Philbrick Hall at the Parkway Central Library. Questions? Call Jamie at 215-686-5323

    Kids entering grades 5-7 can APPLY HERE »

    Teens entering grades 8-12 can APPLY HERE »

    #SummerThymeCooks  #CulinaryLiteracy  #FoodShouldBeShared  #CookTogether

    children's programs How To Teens culinary literacy summer DIY Health

  • 2

    Good Food for All: What Does Hunger Look Like To You?

    by Suzanna U.

    As we gear up for the 3rd Annual Good Food for All Conference with the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger on May 11 at the Parkway Central Library, the Culinary Literacy Center wants to know – what does hunger look like to you?

    Enduring images of anonymous people in line at the soup kitchen are certainly indelibly linked to poverty in America. How do we put a face on poverty? With 1 in 5 Philadelphians considered at risk for hunger, chances are you or someone you know lives on the spectrum of food insecurity. How do we get beyond the stigma and shame of hunger? David Zucchino’s Myth of the Welfare Queen is just one of many texts we have here at the Free Library that examines the social fabric of Philadelphia and what it can mean to come up against barriers to food access and other human rights. But you don’t have to take our word for it—college students, restaurant workers, and community leaders are just some of the many Philadelphians who have found themselves in need of safety nets that food pantries, community gardens, and soup kitchens can provide. Listen to the experiences of your friends, family, and community. Tell your own story.

    Register for the conference on May 11 and join Philadelphians who are committed to improving food access in their own lives and the lives of those around them. You will be in good company: conference sessions throughout the fourth floor of Parkway Central Library will feature presentations and workshops with representatives from the various organizations and city agencies, including:

    The keynote address will be delivered by Saru Jayaraman, the Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United) and Director of the Food Labor Research Center at University of California, Berkeley. After 9/11, together with displaced World Trade Center workers, Jayaraman co-founded ROC, which now has more than 18,000 worker members, 200 employer partners, and several thousand consumer members in a dozen states nationwide. Saru is a graduate of Yale Law School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She was listed in CNN’s "Top 10 Visionary Women" and recognized as a Champion of Change by the White House in 2014, as well as a James Beard Foundation Leadership Award in 2015. Saru authored Behind the Kitchen Door, a national bestseller, and most recently Forked: A New Standard for American Dining.

    culinary literacy social justice Health

  • 26

    Focus On: Unique Lending

    by Samantha M.

    A baker browses through dozens of cake pans to plan confectionary creations of her wildest imagination. Meanwhile, a man chooses the perfect tie from more than 60 to wear to his graduation. Elsewhere, a musician slated to play a wedding gig picks out an acoustic guitar from a batch of 25 other instruments. Although it might seem like these people are in a department store, they're actually at the Free Library!

    It’s well-known that a Free Library card comes with access to books, DVDs, and audiobooks—but cardholders can also check out neckties from Paschalville Library’s Tiebrary, cake pans from McPherson Square Library, and musical instruments from the Musical Instrument Collection at Parkway Central Library! These items can be borrowed for a lending period of three weeks, just like any other material.

    "At the Free Library, our core belief is access," says Perry Genovesi of the Music Department. "We have this place where you don’t have to have money to be able to use a resource or learn something."

    These collections certainly attract interest from people who might not be able to afford the items otherwise, as well as from those who want to try something new without an investment—
    and, most importantly, with related guidance and resources at their fingertips. Checking out a football-shaped baking pan or a banjo is definitely a novelty, but these items do not exist as
    one-offs. Instead, they are natural extensions of the resources and services the Free Library already offers. Bakers can borrow cookbooks with their cake pans. Musicians—from beginners
    learning the basics to the experienced who want to expand their skills—may haul an armload of sheet music home with a mandolin or ukulele. And when a job seeker looks at a tie, he
    won’t simply be sent on his way:

    "It’s more than just ‘here’s a tie,’" says Niema Nelson, Digital Resource Specialist. "We’re dedicated to helping job seekers succeed."

    The Tiebrary is an integrated part of Paschalville’s Job Readiness Center, where customers can learn how to write a résumé, fill out a job application, prepare for an interview, or apply for a green card. As all three of these unique collections grow in selection and in capacity, librarians are planning programs around the collections and in conjunction with other departments. Nelson has already facilitated demonstrations on how to tie neckties, and Genovesi envisions a Musical Instrument Collection collaboration with the Culinary Literacy Center, combining food and sounds from world cultures. In the meantime, other borrowing ideas are brewing—like bird-watching backpacks and blood-pressure cuffs. Stay tuned!

    This story was originally featured in our Spring 2017 issue of Off the Shelf, a biannual publication with news and features from across the Free Library of Philadelphia system.

    Free Library staff music culinary literacy job fairs library card neighborhood libraries

  • 17

    Dip into Springtime with Fresh Get HYPE Philly! Recipes

    by Brittany B.

    Our Get HYPE Philly! teens are ready for spring! In preparation for the warmer weather, they learned how easy it is to prepare light but flavorful snack dips.

    The lesson, by Food Educator Lauren Nixon, showed teens how to use common kitchen staples like herbs, spices and seed butters to improvise their favorite flavors. Love a green pesto on toast but don’t have any basil? No problem! Just grab another green—like broccoli—and you’re good to go. Craving caramel with your apples? Mix together a little honey with your favorite nut butter and you’re almost there!

    Oh, and broccoli-haters beware: with a little help from some minced garlic and a touch of olive oil, many of our teens reported they couldn’t even taste the infamous veggie... so you may just find yourself enjoying this delicious and nutritious snack, too!
    Spicy Broccoli Pesto (from The New York Times)

    ½ pound broccoli florets
    3 large garlic cloves, peeled
    ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
    4-6 tbsp lemon juice
    Salt to taste
    Ground pepper to taste
    Small pinch chili flakes
    ⅓ cup unsalted sunflower seeds


    • Steam the broccoli for five minutes.
    • Let broccoli cool five to 10 minutes.
    • Chop broccoli into bite sized pieces and add to a large bowl along with the remainder of the ingredients.
    • Pulse with an immersion blender until pesto has reached desired consistency. A blender or food processor can be used in lieu of an immersion blender.
    • Enjoy on toast, alongside an omelet or scrambled eggs, or on vegetables!


    Cinnamon Tahini Dip (from

    2 Tbsp tahini
    1 Tbsp honey
    ½ tsp ground cinnamon
    ½ tsp ground turmeric (optional)
    Pinch of sea salt


    • Combine all ingredients and blend with an immersion blender.
    • Enjoy with sliced fruit, on toast, or in morning oatmeal or porridge.

    Teens, Join Us
    Get HYPE Philly!'s free culinary literacy programs happen from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays at several neighborhood library locations. We encourage anyone ages 12 to 18-years-old to come check it out! Download our Get HYPE Philly! Programs Calendar or browse for our events online.

    You can also like Get HYPE Philly! on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram!
    Get HYPE Philly! is made possible with generous support from GSK.

    Events at the Library Teens culinary literacy


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