Food Insecurity, English Language Learning, and Community Conversations in North Philadelphia

By Lindsay S. Fri, January 3, 2020

Edible Alphabet is a free English language learning program offered to adults by the Free Library's Culinary Literacy Center. The mission of the program is to teach English language and literacy skills through hands-on cooking and library projects. Students learn vocabulary and grammar, as well as practice listening, speaking, reading, and writing in English while exploring library resources and cooking delicious recipes.

Edible Alphabet English classes have been offered at Lillian Marrero Library in the Fairhill neighborhood of North Philadelphia since 2018, shortly after the library reopened as part of the Free Library's 21st Century Libraries Initiative.

For the fall of 2019, Edible Alphabet offered a food justice module of the English program. The goals of this course were to:

  • Increase the English proficiency of participants
  • Connect participants to library resources and services
  • Build a welcoming and inclusive class community that aids students in their civic and cultural integration into Philadelphia
  • Discuss and share people’s lived experiences around food access
  • Examine the way food systems (over individual choices) impact healthy eating and living

Course topics included food deserts, transportation barriers to accessing healthy and affordable food, inflated food prices in lowest-income neighborhoods of Philadelphia and other cities, SNAP/ACCESS and stigma about public benefits, gentrification, community gardening, food policy, the minimum wage, Puerto Rico and the Jones Act, and food apartheid.  During each class, students learned new English vocabulary, watched videos, read and discussed articles, and shared their experiences around food access with their classmates. The class culminated in a community discussion between class participants and staff of the Food Trust on the topic of food access in the Fairhill neighborhood, with Edible Alphabet students sharing their experiences, priorities, and action recommendations. 

This winter, Edible Alphabet classes will begin on Friday, January 24 and take place every Friday in the basement of Lillian Marrero Library from 10:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. For our first module of 2020, we will cook recipes from around the United States while learning and practicing English. Register today!

For more information, please email kitchen@freelibrary.org or call 215-686-8664.

Every week, participants practice English speaking, reading, writing, and listening while cooking a meal together.
Every week, participants practice English speaking, reading, writing, and listening while cooking a meal together.
Edible Alphabet participants sharing a meal they prepared in class
Edible Alphabet participants sharing a meal they prepared in class
Join us for English class every Friday from 10:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. starting January 24, 2020
Join us for English class every Friday from 10:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. starting January 24, 2020

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