San Francisco Public Library, Calif.
Farm-to-table cooking is at the center of Bay Area culture; yet for those of limited means, cooking at home is a lost art. Biblio Bistro, a mobile, librarian-staffed cooking cart, offers demonstrations and classes to makes the connection between self-prepared meals and wellness, and offers lifelong skills to the community.
For many San Franciscans, time constraints or lack of knowledge limit their nutritional options. Cooking can be challenging for low-income residents who share a kitchen or cook on a hot plate in a single room occupancy hotel. The farmers’ markets offer a variety of produce, but without skills many people resort to buying prepared foods that lack essential nutrients for long-term health. The opportunity for the library is to demonstrate healthful eating using fresh ingredients and basic equipment, to build nutritional awareness and raise the community’s culinary acuity, and improve the long-term quality of people’s lives.
Biblio Bistro connects people to locally grown foods at the Heart of the City Farmers’ Market and in classes at the Library. All recipes prepared on our mobile kitchen are inexpensive and easy. At the Market, we feature one vegetable, highlighting its nutrition and taste. Booklists of cookbooks, health books, and gardening books related to the ingredient are handed out. The fragrance of garlic cooking always draws people in to observe and they are rewarded with samples of sumptuous hot tastes of our recipe-of-the-day. In-house, we conduct cooking classes that focus on taste, health, and simple recipes.
Patrons report that they regularly prepare the recipes in our brochure and relish previously overlooked vegetables. They enjoy learning about new ingredients and techniques, resulting in healthier, enriched eating habits. Biblio Bistro’s presence at the farmers’ market attracts new library members and has taught more than 1,350 visitors. Hands-on classes for 110 youth (to date) instill pride for self-prepared meals. Staff comprehensive training has generated tremendous enthusiasm. Through additional partnerships with schools, street fairs, farmer’s markets, and parks, we continue to expand, connecting people with nutritious food and library services for the health and wellness of the community.