Librarians at West Oakland Public Library


What motivates you to bring food education to your community?

I love cooking with our patrons. Bringing nourishing food to people is the best! We also are located in West Oakland what is known as a food desert, so food programming is essential here.

How many people do you reach with your cooking programs?

We can accommodate up to 30 participants in each cooking lesson. We generally have about 20 people in attendance – of all different ages. Young children come with their parents, community members come without children, and teens come after school. We try to partner with other community organizations whenever possible and were thrilled when a demonstration with Hodo Tofu, based here in Oakland, brought out 36 people to make tofu and spring rolls!

Tell us a little bit about how you are using the Charlie Cart Mobile Kitchen and Charlie Cart Curriculum?

We are using the Charlie Cart for hands on cooking lessons and demonstrations. The recipe ideas are generated both by the patrons, and by staff, and we draw on the Charlie Cart curriculum whenever possible. We find that using the curriculum is the easiest as all of the measurements for the large group as well as the break out smaller groups is already done for you.

Our first lesson was a celebration of Chinese New Year. One of our branch librarians demonstrated her own family recipe, and then we all helped children and families make their own dumplings. They absolutely loved it. One of the librarians went out to the local grocery store and photographed the aisles where the ingredients could be found. She made a full color hand out with the recipe for each participant. We also ordered children’s books from all our regional libraries. We had a table full of stories about Chinese New Year and dumplings, so kids could read about what they learned at home. This is just one example of how rich a learning experience a simple cooking lesson can be!

What is your favorite Charlie Cart lesson so far?

I love the strawberry shortcake lesson. It’s personally my favorite dessert and having patrons make the dough is really fun (for them and for us!) I also really like being able to use the oven on the Charlie Cart!  I also enjoy the Garlic Toast & Greens, the clever way the lesson has students taste each ingredient as they go along.

What stands out to you about Charlie Cart lesson plans?

The lesson plans are very easy to use. Since we are a library, we don’t strictly follow the educational content in the lessons, but they are a great starting point for us to pick and choose what works best for our patrons. The recipes are delicious and I love how they are broken up by grade level & seasons.

What plans do you have for growing your cooking program?

Eventually we hope to have a sustained monthly cooking program with separate sessions for young children and teens. And there is a lot of demand for this among our library patrons. We would also love to grow our local community member involvement. Local chefs, come volunteer your time with us! It’s a beautiful community where your time and effort will be greatly appreciated.

What influence do you see these cooking programs having on kids and families in your community?

I think and hope that children are more invested in what they are eating in their homes and hopefully they are involved more in the cooking.

What are some of the challenges you have faced in cooking with kids at the library and how have you overcome them?

We have a very hands on community and attendees quickly jump in to help each other so there really haven’t been too many challenges. Reminding children to wash their hands and not touch their bodies after doing so may be the biggest challenge. We are sure to have a staff member at each of our three hands on tables and most all of our youth are either old enough or are accompanied by adults for the more challenging aspects of cooking.

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