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Planting the Seeds of Health Literacy

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Planting the Seeds of Health Literacy

Springfield City Library, Mass.

Wellness, Safety and Sustainability | 2017 | Honorable Mention

Innovation Summary

Health is growing here at the library. Funded by the National Library of Medicine, the "Health in the Square" project provides nutritional awareness, access to health information resources, and urban gardening skills to Mason Square neighborhood residents, with the goal of building a foundation of health literacy for the community.

Problem Statement

Farming and locally-sourced foods are quintessential parts of our Pioneer Valley culture. However, the Springfield neighborhoods around the Mason Square Library paint a different picture. Lead-contaminated soil and other environmental health threats imperil this Springfield community. Surrounded by fast food restaurants and bodegas, residents have little access to fresh and healthy food options, making this urban area a food desert. The library has created an oasis with onsite community gardens, workshops and health resources.


The "Health in the Square" project brings health resources, local organizations and community residents together. By building on existing library efforts like our seed lending library and community garden beds, patrons of all ages are engaging in healthy habits here at the library: youth groups visit for cooking classes, adults attend nutrition lectures, teens use iPads to access health information and almost every day in the summer, kids are helping their grandparents in our gardens.


Mason Square Branch Library and our community partners are engaging people in healthy practices and working towards alleviating food insecurity. Patrons take home kale, onions, strawberries and other fresh produce pulled from our gardens. On "Tasty Tuesdays," children and their families create delicious and nutritious no-cook recipes using fresh ingredients. Free soil testing lessens the lead poisoning burden on households. Our library has truly transformed into a community space where health is a priority.