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Building a Teen Nutrition Program

San Antonio Public Library

Innovation Summary

The San Antonio Public Library (SAPL) and the San Antonio Food Bank (SAFB) have partnered together for seven years. By participating in both its Summer Lunch Program and Kids’ Café Program, SAPL received the guidance and resources to develop a nutrition program for teens within the Library itself.

Innovation Leader: Jennifer Velasquez, Teen Services Coordinator, jennifer.velasquez@sanantonio.gov

Problem Statement

Considered by many to be an epidemic across the country, obesity is having an impact on the health of people in every city and even on our youngest citizens. As the mother of two teens, it is an issue that has been addressed by First Lady Michelle Obama. In San Antonio, obesity has long been a problem and only recently has it begun to be addressed by community leaders. Education has been the key to teaching prevention and although the community as a whole is addressing this issue, the reality is that combating obesity in children and teens has not always succeeded. With this issue at the forefront, the San Antonio Public Library saw an opportunity to develop a program for teens using input from teens that would provide one more opportunity for them to learn about healthy eating habits and improve their own nutritional experience. The challenge for the San Antonio Public Library was to gain the interest of teens in understanding the importance of good nutrition and developing improved eating habits; therefore, there had to be non-traditional steps taken to both gain the interest and participation in the programs and maintain them. By engaging teens and asking them about what they would like to see and do to build the SAPL nutrition programs, we were able to tailor them to their interests and general need. Based on some of the issues they faced in terms of healthy meals at home or socially, SAPL designed monthly programs that addressed some of these issues.

Innovation

Based on the ideas and recommendations that came out of regular discussions with teens, the San Antonio Public Library enlisted the skills and expertise of a single point of contact from the San Antonio Food Bank – a licensed nutritionist who by using the resources of the SAFB, would provide guidance to teens and librarians about taught them about making healthy meal choices that were still enjoyable to a teen’s palate. He visited the Library regularly and developed informative and entertaining programs about nutrition and also put together educational hands-on cooking demonstrations that allowed the teens themselves to learn how to cook for themselves as well as improve the quality and health of some of their favorite meals. Working with the SAFB nutritionist, librarians were able to coordinate programs that addressed the needs of their teen communities and also educated them on a variety of nutrition-related topics including what vitamins were in various foods, understanding how to read packaging labels, and how to wash vegetables. At the same time, they became knowledgeable about how these components all work together to develop better eating habits and naturally improve health.

Progress

As a result of the success of the teen nutrition programs that began at the Central Library, six additional branch libraries have begun to include nutrition and other meal programs into their teen programming as well. Additionally, in recognition for its nutrition programs for teens, including programs that take place during the summer months when teens are not getting the regular meals and or find it harder to maintain the healthy eating habits they developed and get during the school year, the San Antonio Public Library was named the 2012 Nutrition Partner of the Year by the San Antonio Food Bank. The Golden Apple, as it is known, recognizes organizations and community partners for their efforts to fight hunger in the community.