Home > Programs & Services > Culinary Literacy Center > Nourishing Literacy NOURISHING LITERACY

Nourishing Literacy is the Culinary Literacy Center's set of programs that connect youth, teachers, and caregivers to the library through educational cooking opportunities.

Nourishing Literacy's mission is to provide community-oriented, multi-disciplinary, interactive programs in libraries that inspire growth, creativity, and skill building among youth, adults, and intergenerational groups.

Nourishing Literacy has served over 14,500 students from its launch in 2014 through the end of the 2018/2019 school year. We look forward to working with students of all ages throughout the 2019/2020 school year and summer!

If you are interested in having your class participate in Nourishing Literacy, please complete our Classroom Intake Form.

A Poem to Share

Written by Nourishing Literacy Kitchen Teacher Gabby.

Meet me at the Parkway
Near the double doors.

The 4th floor is filled
With spices galore.

Where books and cooks collide,

Bring your taste buds
And challenge your mind.

It's a community effort,
Each group gets a task.

Preparing new recipes,
We've got to move fast.

We'll mix, blend, and stir
Bake, roast, and fry.

Where the delight of cooking together,
We add to our lives.

Cooking Classes for School Groups

Cooking Classes for School Groups

Preschool through high school groups are invited to participate in programs that connect food education to academic learning standards, library skills, and life skills. These programs take place in the Culinary Literacy Center's kitchen classroom, at Parkway Central Library.


We currently have three lessons to choose from, modified for each grade level. Teachers are encouraged to select the lesson that best fits their class' needs and schedule. We do our best to meet teacher requests as much as possible. Modifications with a targeted focus on life skills and overall accessibility are offered to school groups with special needs.

Better Together focuses on community, roles, and systems. Students practice constructive communication as they complete a shared goal. Understanding the parts that they play in the greater whole of their communities, as well as the parts that different foods play in overall wellness are concepts we examine in the cooking activity. Students have the opportunity to learn about the USDA recommended food groups that make up a balanced plate. Better Together is offered from November, 2019 through January, 2020.

Flavor Finders encourages students to keep an open mind about food, place, and people through curiosity, discovery, and understanding. Philadelphia neighborhoods are featured, as students identify different ingredients and discover where these foods can be sourced. Maps, storytelling, and the senses are used as tools for learning more about each other and our environment. Students practice low sodium cooking techniques using spices, flavors, and textures. Flavor Finders is offered February through April, 2020.

Powerful Plants celebrates the variety and value of plants that can also be food. Students gain information about the life cycle of a plant, conditions for growth, and the parts of the plant. Sequencing, problem solving, and information organization are included in the learning process. The cooking activity features a range of colorful produce, rich in textures, tastes, vitamins, and minerals. Powerful Plants is offered April through June, 2020.


Nourishing Literacy is free to Philadelphia public and charter schools. We request a fee of $200 per class for private schools, schools outside of Philadelphia county, homeschool groups (minimum 15 students), as well as Philadelphia public school classrooms interested in visiting for a second time within the school year. Programs for school groups are offered from November 2019 through June 2020.

To begin the registration process, please complete our online intake form for classroom teachers. Please contact Nourishing Literacy Lead, Shayna Marmar at marmars@freelibrary.org or 215-686-5323, for any additional information.


Our curriculum will be available to share in the spring of 2020. In the meantime, please contact us for book lists, glossaries, academic standards, and lesson extension ideas.

All curriculum and recipes are original, copyrighted Honeypie Cooking & Free Library of Philadelphia material.

Parkway Central Library Departments Collaborations

Collaborations with subject departments at Parkway Central Library add to students' experience and the program as a whole, extending learning beyond the kitchen and maximizing the library's resources. To learn a little more about how Nourishing Literacy worked with our amazing colleagues during the 2018/2019 school year, please read this blog post, written by former Culinary Literacy Center Office Manager, Paul O. Mims.

Parkway Central Departments and Programs that we work with include:

  • Art
  • Business Resource and Innovation Center (BRIC)
  • Children's
  • Education, Religion, and Philosophy
  • LEAP Afterschool Program
  • Literature
  • Map Collection
  • Materials Management
  • Music
  • Rare Books
  • Science and Wellness
  • Social Science and History
  • Special Collections
  • Teen Center
  • Youth Services and Programs

Cooking Classes

Extended Day Visits for School Groups

To help minimize travel costs, it is common for two groups from the same school to share a bus to Parkway Central Library. This allows students to be with us for the majority of the school day, taking turns cooking in the kitchen classroom and spending time in some of the other awesome library departments. Sometimes individual classrooms choose to be with us for the entire day as well, unrelated to a travel need.

In addition to our Parkway Central Library colleagues, members of the Nourishing Literacy team are occasionally available to work with school groups in other spaces of the building in addition to the kitchen classroom, extending cooking class learning through art, movement, and literacy activities.

We encourage and welcome school groups to stay for a longer day when able to, and participate in a variety of library learning experiences.

Nourishing Literacy in Neighborhood Libraries

The Nourishing Literacy team will offer limited cooking classes at select neighborhood libraries for school classrooms starting in the winter of 2020. We are looking forward to working with our neighborhood library colleagues in providing students with cooking class options that are located closer to their schools. More information about our work throughout the city will be available soon. In the meantime, if you are interested in this opportunity, please fill out and submit this short online interest form. Thank you!

Summer Thyme Camp

Summer Thyme Camp

The summer of 2019 was Nourishing Literacy's first year of taking the lead on Summer Thyme Cooks, the Culinary Literacy Center's summer program for youth.

Summer Thyme Camp 2019 provided 70 students ages 10 - 17 with a week-long, community-centered cooking experience. A recap of this year's program can be found on our blog. Details about Summer Thyme Camp 2020 will be available in March, 2020.

Summer Thyme Recipe to Share: Turkey -OR- Bean Burgers (serves 4 people)

Turkey Burger Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 2 Tablespoons ketchup (optional)
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce or BBQ sauce (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon salt (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon pepper (optional)
  • 1 Tablespoon oil or few sprays of oil spray, using more as-needed

Bean Burger Ingredients:

  • 1¾ cups cooked beans (one 15-oz. can drained and rinsed), mashed
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder or red pepper flakes (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon salt (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon pepper (optional)
  • Water as-/if-needed
  • 1 Tablespoon oil or few sprays of oil spray, using more as-needed


  1. In a large bowl, mix together all burger ingredients (either the turkey burger or the bean burger ingredients).
  2. Shape into 4 patties. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Heat oil in a saute pan or divide the oil among two saute pans over a medium-high temperature.
  4. Cook patties for 5 to 6 minutes per side, until browned and crisped on both sides.
  5. Serve burgers along with hamburger buns and fixings!

Sumer Thyme Cooks
Additional Offerings

Additional Offerings

Nourishing Literacy's expanding services help to support the growth of our students and the greater community.

In-School Programs

We visit the groups that have worked with us in the kitchen classroom at their school sites when possible. When we visit these schools, the Nourishing Literacy team provides 30 - 45 minute lessons, extending the learning introduced during the cooking class. We can visit schools when at least two classrooms from that school have participated in the same cooking lesson.

Family/Intergenerational Classes

Students who participate in a cooking class with their peers are invited back to the Culinary Literacy Center with their loved ones to join a Nourishing Literacy Family Saturday class. We revisit the cooking techniques and concepts that were introduced during the initial cooking class through a different recipe and set of activities.

Occasionally, the Nourishing Literacy team is able to offer drop-in intergenerational cooking classes at neighborhood libraries. When this is the case, we post these event announcements to the Culinary Literacy Center Facebook and Instagram pages.

Community Workshops

The Nourishing Literacy team enjoys sharing our work and ideas through professional development and trainings. In the past, we have provided workshops for librarians and individuals who work in food education. This year, we are expanding our offerings to include programs for classroom teachers and caregivers. The Nourishing Literacy team presented a Cooking with Youth in Your Library event at the 2019 American Library Association Annual Conference. If interested in a workshop for fifteen or more people, please contact Shayna Marmar at marmars@freelibrary.org or 215-686-5323.

Community Workshop

Career Development

Nourishing Literacy kitchen teachers join the team with existing meaningful connections to the library and a sincere desire to work in library settings. Team members enter with a range of cooking and teaching experience. The team is supported in the development and growth of their teaching and leadership skills.

We give the Nourishing Literacy Kitchen Teachers opportunities to strengthen their abilities and confidence in the kitchen classroom, to practice and make mistakes, and to bring their own unique perspective to the lessons. The various experiences and skills held by the team are honored and incorporated into our work together whenever possible.

Our visiting school students are always our top priority throughout our professional growth processes. We work as a united, communicative group to provide an experience that is positive and engaging for the students while rich in learning for those teaching.

We support our visiting students to envision a pathway into this work if that is something that interests them, whether this is in the field of teaching, the culinary arts, or library work/librarianship. It is a privilege for us as a team to model and act as a conduit toward professional possibility and curiosity for our students of all ages. Our in-classroom extensions/outreach visits for older youth include links to career development information and skills. Community members of all ages who would like to learn more about how to get involved are encouraged to reach out.

Nourishing Literacy teachers have often sited their experience working on this team as one that informs and strengthens the work that they do outside of the kitchen classroom, as well as inside of it. A hub for individuals committed to teaching, library use, and community-building, Nourishing Literacy's vision and honor is for the work to have lasting impact on the individuals involved.

In addition to our teaching team, we support the learning and growth of community members through partnerships with work study students, interns, and volunteers.

Team Information

Team Information

Nourishing Literacy is committed to blending education, culinary arts, and library resources. The program was co-created by Honeypie Cooking and the Culinary Literacy Center.

Shayna Marmar is the Nourishing Literacy Lead, bringing experience as a classroom educator, food educator, and education administrator. Shayna works closely with the Nourishing Literacy teaching team in continuing to grow program elements, respond to students' needs, and maintain flexibility.

The Nourishing Literacy teaching team is a group of creative and dynamic individuals, as well as a powerful community of talented and caring teachers. We are so grateful for all of the work put in by our team, their commitment to the process, providing all students and visitors with an enriching and joyful learning experience.

In addition to the newest training team members and our wonderful volunteers, we thank returning Nourishing Literacy team members, Alex, Hady, Frank, Gabby, and Kait for helping to make our work strong!

Team Members

Community Support is Always Appreciated!

To offer financial support to Nourishing Literacy and/or to the Culinary Literacy Center at large, please donate online or contact the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation at giving@freelibrary.org.

Supporting our work in the form of donated time is also greatly valued! To learn more about the Nourishing Literacy volunteer opportunity, please contact Shayna Marmar at marmars@freelibrary.org or 215-686-5323.


Media Links

In the News

"Cooking Up Summer Fun at the Library", The Notebook, July 2019

"Get Cooking at the Free Library's Culinary Literacy Center", Philadelphia Inquirer, May 2018

"Food Literacy Programs Teach More Than Cooking & Nutrition", School Library Journal, September 2018

"Food for Thought", Philadelphia Citizen, October 2017

"The Culinary Literacy Center Nourishes More Than Minds", The Grid, August 2015

"Building the Library of the Future Here in Philadelphia", Flying Kite, November 2014

Nourishing Literacy TV

Nourishing Literacy is developing a series of educational videos highlighting kitchen basics, with our wonderful colleague Steve Jackson. Steve is a youth mentor, videographer, and founder of Jackson-Cor. Thanks to Steve and his team for helping us bring our video visions to life! For a recap on the launch of these videos, check out our past blog post. Nourishing Literacy and other Culinary Literacy Center videos can be found on the Free Library of Philadelphia YouTube channel!