• 5

    Heart Health at the Free Library

    by Katie D.

    February is American Heart Month, so it’s a great time to learn about making heart-healthy choices every day and to use your neighborhood library to help improve your heart health. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States—but it is also one of the most preventable.

    What you can do to improve your heart health:

    1. Make heart-healthy choices
      Eat healthy. Be active. Maintain a healthy weight. Quit smoking. Control your cholesterol and blood pressure. If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. Manage your stress.
    2. Know your family history and your risk factors.
      Everyone is at risk for heart disease, but some risk factors and family history of heart disease will put you at higher risk.
    3. Have regular check-ups.
      Find a health center near you. Look into free health screenings in your neighborhood.

    How can the Free Library help you with these goals?
    We have plenty of helpful resources to help you get started or maintain your heart-healthy habits:

    And last but not least, attend one (or all!) of these Free Library health workshops:


    culinary literacy Health

  • 8

    Meatless Mondays at South Philadelphia Library

    by Katie D.

    If you walk into the South Philadelphia Library meeting room on a Monday afternoon between 4:00 - 6:00 p.m., you’ll find a group of children, teenagers, and adults chopping, grating, and peeling fresh veggies to learn about vegan cooking from Chef Char Nolan. Nolan is a plant-based vegan with tons of enthusiasm for converting your favorite meals into meatless option. During her weekly Meatless Mondays program, she uses the South Philly Library’s Charlie Cart to give everyone hands-on experience making the week’s recipes. The Charlie Cart is a mobile kitchen provided by the Culinary Literacy Center through a partnership with Dietz & Watson to support the Free Library of Philadelphia’s efforts to advance literacy through food and cooking.

    On the menu back in December: vegan chili (recipe below!), with toppings including guacamole, and hot cocoa. As people walk in, they’re put to work chopping and grating. Char asks a participant to read the label on the chili sauce—no fat, low sodium. Bingo! Three teenagers man the hot plate together to start the chili, taking turns stirring.

    While the chili simmers on the hot plate, we move onto the hot cocoa recipe. This vegan hot cocoa is made with soy milk, cocoa powder, dates, and vegan marshmallows. We use the cart’s Vitamix blender to blend these ingredients and heat them up. While it’s mixing up, Char asks for a volunteer to read the label on the container of dates. She teaches the class that dates are a sweetener but also contain vitamins and iron, unlike the white sugar you buy in a bag. Our first two taste testers think it isn’t sweet enough, so we add a few more dates and try again. Everyone loves it!

    Next up, the toppings bar! We’re making "lazy guacamole" today, which means adding an extra avocado or two to store-bought guacamole. We also have hummus, diced cherry tomatoes, and chips for dipping.

    The chili smells amazing and more library patrons are walking by to look in the windows of the meeting room. Once Chef Char starts serving up her vegan chili, another half-dozen people walk in and line up. Everyone adds their favorite toppings and then we talk around the table about what to make next week.

    Meatless Mondays challenges people to think about eating a plant-based dinner one night each week. Going meatless once a week can help reduce your risk of chronic, preventable diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. Started by Sid Lerner and the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in 2003, the Meatless Mondays movement encourages people to make meatless and vegetarian meals part of your day-to-day life. Americans on average eat 270 pounds of meat per person per year. Starting with Meatless Monday, skipping meat one day a week is good for you and better for the planet. It can also be good for your wallet! Why Monday? Studies show that you’re more likely to adopt healthy behaviors on Monday than any other day of the week. It’s the first day of a new week, and many view it as a fresh start to their healthy living goals. 

    Wondering how to get started? Start your week off right with a Meatless Mondays class at the South Philadelphia Library on Mondays at 3:45 p.m. Upcoming dates include January 22 and 29 and February 5, 12, and 26.

    You can also check out this booklist that can help to inspire your own Meatless Mondays!

    Now to make your own South Philly Chili at home!



    • 5-6 small carrots, grated
    • 4 stalks of celery, diced
    • 1 red onion, diced
    • 2 cups of cubed, fresh mushrooms
    • 2 green peppers, finely diced
      (Saute these veggies in a large pot, using ¼ cup of water, over a medium flame.)
    • 4 thawed veggie burgers, crumbled
    • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1 teaspoon Chili powder
    • 1 teaspoon oregano
    • ½ cup of nutritional yeast
    • 1 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
    • 2 cans of tomato paste, and 12 ounces of water
    • 3 cans of beans (Any type. We used black, pinto, and kidney) Rinse the beans off with water, to remove any excess sodium.

    Once the vegetables are sautéed and soft, add tomatoes, spices, and stir well.

    Add crumbled veggie burgers and nutritional yeast. Stir and simmer for 45 minutes on a low heat.

    Serve with brown rice.

    culinary literacy Health

  • 24

    The Final Word with Michael Solomonov

    by Lo I.

    The Israel-born, Pittsburgh-raised chef is now claimed by Philadelphia as a favorite culinary son. As executive chef and co-owner of Zahav, a restaurant of international renown that celebrates Israeli cuisine, Michael Solomonov has "walked gingerly" into "the age of the rock-star chef/entrepreneur," says Philadelphia Magazine. A four-time James Beard Award winner, he co-owns Philadelphia’s Federal Donuts, Dizengoff, Abe Fisher, Goldie, and the philanthropic Rooster Soup Company, which donates 100 percent of its profits to support Philadelphia’s most vulnerable citizens. Together with business partner Steven Cook, co-founder of CookNSolo Restaurant Partners, they penned the cookbook Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking and the new culinary chronicle Federal Donuts: The (Partially) True Spectacular Story, which tells the story of one of Philadelphia’s now famous food pairings: fried chicken and donuts.

    What role have libraries played in your life? What role do you think they play in our 21st-century world?
    With the way that we catalog our lives constantly in flux, libraries are that rock-steady resource for every age. They’re the backbone. And especially now that I have young kids, they’re an indelible part of our community.

    Fried Chicken and donuts is a delicious, some say genius, pairing. What food and drink pair best with curling up in your favorite reading nook?
    Ideally, I would crush a couple bourekas [baked filled pastries with flaky dough] with Bulgarian feta. And since I don’t drink (but even if you do), a lemonnana [mint lemonade] or turmeric lime soda (toss some cucumber and cilantro in there if you have on hand) are both as delicious as they are refreshing.

    Zahav, Dizengoff, and Goldie all have a distinct Israeli flair. Why do you think there has been such an appetite for these cuisines in Philadelphia?
    People are increasingly interested in where their food comes from. And as this trend becomes not just a trend but a mentality that’s here to stay, I think people are relating to Israeli cuisine more and more, since the food of Israel is an ultimate representation of such. The food in Israel is harvested right there—it’s accessible, it’s as fresh as it gets, and the flavors are different. All things that whet Philadelphians' appetites.

    You’re rumored to have taken members of your staff sky diving. Why?! Is this a secret ingredient to your restaurants’ success?
    Life’s too short to not go on a slightly insane adventure every once in a while.

    To you, the Free Library of Philadelphia is also the Free Library of ____. Why?
    The Free Library of Philadelphia is also the Free Library of The Future—a model for other metropolitan cities to get behind.

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

    author events culinary literacy

  • 21

    LEAP into HYPE!

    by Khyra L.

    Two Free Library of Philadelphia programs have teamed up to create new ways to advance literacy, guide learning, and inspire curiosity! Get HYPE Philly! and the Literacy Enrichment After-School Program (LEAP), offer fun, positive, and tasty ideas to all neighborhood and regional libraries through our HYPE LEAP lessons.

    As a fundamental part of Mayor Kenney’s Five Year Financial and Strategic Plan, LEAP is a free, drop-in program for youth in grades K-12 and currently employs a workforce of approximately 125 Teen Leadership Assistants (TLAs). TLAs work with After-School Leaders and other library staff to focus on homework help, literacy, mentoring, technology, and maintaining a safe and supportive space.

    Get HYPE Philly! is generally focused in North Philadelphia, where many of the TLAs at these libraries not only attend events, but support Get HYPE Philly! program faciliators as well as participating youth patrons. The HYPE LEAP lessons offer TLAs at all Free Library locations a unique leadership experience to spread the HYPE message—"Healthy You, Positive Energy!".

    Essentially, the HYPE LEAP lessons are youth-centered; young people create the lesson content, as well as lead activities for youth patrons. Teens who work with Get HYPE Philly! created the HYPE LEAP lesson plans to be an interactive, youth-led literacy program in line with the GHP! goal of "creating a lasting impact, helping to ensure Philadelphia’s young people play a key role in building healthier communities, and becoming a healthier generation."  Participating library staff, including TLAs, are eligible to receive two ServSafe food handling certifications in addition to a fun way to encourage other youth to be HYPE!

    At a recent training, LEAP staff learned more about the HYPE LEAP curriculum. Focusing on the "Think Big, Think HYPE!" theme, we encouraged participants to consider ways  to bring positive, relevant change to their respective libraries.

    Hieu Nguyen, a TLA at South Philadelphia Library and president of the HYPE Program at Central High School, was excited to find ideas that he can bring to both places. He hopes to increase his peers’ participation in the HYPE program with more ideas, and was grateful to learn about the HYPE LEAP lessons. "[HYPE LEAP] brings forth another way to connect with the community," adds Hieu. Passionate about helping others, Hieu says he plans to be a neurosurgeon. "I know there’s a lot of money in that, but that’s not why I want it," says Hieu. "I just love learning about the brain and how it works! I want to help others by understanding how the brain works, and ways to treat things like Alzheimer’s and dementia."

    Hieu and the rest of the LEAP staff enjoyed a day full of HYPE activities, including The Hoola Hoop Challenge and making a healthy snack: Caprese Salad Skewers.

    Try this recipe at home and let us know what you think by tagging us on social media: @FLPGetHYPE on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or responding in the comments section below!

    Caprese Salad Skewers
    Recipe originally from


    • Cherry tomatoes·   
    • Mozzarella balls·   
    • Fresh Basil  
    • Olive Oil   
    • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
    • salt and pepper


    1. Assemble, tomatoes, basil (roll from one end to the other), and mozzarella balls on medium-sized toothpicks. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
    2. To make balsamicreduction, add one cup of balsamic vinegar to a sauce pan over medium heat. Once it comes to a boil, set on simmer for about 10-15 minutes until it reduces to a syrup consistency. You can check by dipping a spoon in the balsamic and if it covers the back of it, it's done. As it cools, it will thicken a bit more then drizzle on top of caprese salad skewers.
    Free Library staff Teens culinary literacy LEAP Recipes Get HYPE Philly

  • 27

    Get HYPE Philly! Victorious in Annual Teen Battle Chef!

    by Dominique A.

    My co-worker, Aurora, coordinates Get HYPE Philly! for the Free Library. We’ve worked great together since I started in January, so I jumped right at the chance to work with her on the annual Teen Battle Chef competition.

    I just graduated from the culinary program at Swenson Arts and Technology High School. I am the kitchen manager for the Culinary Literacy Center (CLC) at Parkway Central Library and I work the line at an exclusive athletic club downtown. Naturally, I navigated over to recipe development and food prep planning with Aurora. With her experience with planning and coordinating events, we gathered our team. Once we finished brainstorming, we went met with staff from the Kitchen Table at JEVS. With a warm welcome, I got to meet the JEVS instructors who would be leading the other team of teens. The meeting was very inclusive, taking ideas from both sides of the board.

    With the meeting’s conclusion, it was settled that both teams would be making an Indian dish for the appetizer, Caribbean for the entree, and a collaborative dessert for the crowd that would not be judged. I suggested Indian cuisine because I wanted a dish that both teams were unfamiliar with. Our competitor suggested Caribbean cuisine because it was something she was not familiar with and was interested in cooking.

    Over the next three weeks we all kept in touch via informative emails because this was more than a competition—it was a chance for growth in teamwork, culinary skills, and public speaking. From the start, it was clear that declaring a victor was not the main objective of the competition. The main objective was to help young adults get a few steps closer to adulthood. This objective was the focus from the start of my very first meeting with my team to our very first cooking demo.

    My teammates, Kydirrah Mitchell, Monae Wilson, Raiquan Mullen, and Tykira Brown, were a great mixture of seriousness and fun. In my eighteen years of life, I have never had the pleasure of being surrounded by people with so much grit and determination. We all had multiple stressful things going on in our lives, plus the looming competition, but we gave it our all every day. No one complained. Even when we had to use the four burner stove in the staff kitchen because the CLC’s kitchen was occupied, we worked through it all. 

    When competition day rolled around, the atmosphere was friendly, but tense. Both teams took their part in making the desserts and centerpieces. I was two cooks short for the first three hours because my teammates had professional development. You could smell the stress in the air as my team walked out of lunch early to get back to cooking. I was probably the most stressed because I was the team captain and I didn’t want to let them down. With the time ticking down at lightning speed, I gathered my team and split them up by task, making sure they understood that we needed to be as efficient as possible if we were going to pull this off. With the piercing look of focus in their eyes, I had no doubt that we would complete the task at hand. We did it without skipping a beat. Moving as one, we made sweet and spicy Caribbean Chicken with Peach Chutney for the entrée and Veggie Momos for the appetizer, solidifing our victory.

    In every contest, whether it be culinary-based or not, I have never faced a team full of such professional and kind hearted individuals. Both teams received $25 gift cards, while the winning team was also awarded blue ribbons. This was followed by pictures and the exchange of business cards from the panel of renowned Philadelphia Chefs, Kenneth Bush and Jezabel Careaga.

    Although the competition was not completely smooth (there was some confusion with timing and setup that led to a pretty stressful day), I can’t complain. Any chef or individual with any experience in the kitchen knows that no matter how much you plan and prepare, something will go wrong. But hey, what's a good story without conflict? We gave the audience a show to remember—I know I’ll never forget!

    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.

    Parkway Central Teens culinary literacy Get HYPE Philly

  • 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


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