OYAN Review: Make the Case for Meals @ Your Library

This post is an article from the Fall 2016 issue of the OYAN Review and has been edited slightly for publication on the blog. It was written by Mary Schreiber of the Cuyahoga County Public Library.

A cute, brightly-colored bento-style packed lunch with pizza, cucumber cut into a flower shape, and fruitIf you haven’t dipped your toe into serving meals at your library already, now is the perfect time to do it! In June, Amy Koester blogged about Combating Summer Food Insecurity at the Library, but it might have been too late for you to put things into place for this past summer. Never fear, here are some tips to getting started with your planning for Summer 2017!

Not sure how to make the case for serving meals at your library? Check out the following talking points, provided by Maria Trivisonno, Children’s Librarian at Cuyahoga County Public Library’s Warrensville Branch:

  • Providing meals increases civic engagement and shows the library to be a commu- nity resource hub.
  • Offering meals builds a sense of community, as library staff will learn the names of more kids who already visit the library often.
  • It expands partnerships with other community-focused groups.
  • Serving meals helps with lifelong learning, as students can be more successful at school when they don’t have to worry about their next meal.

When advocating for meals at your library, you’ll also be fulfilling the ALSC Core Competency of “Outreach and Advocacy” through the formation of partnerships to overcome barriers for children in your community!

Food insecurity doesn’t just happen during the summer months, and libraries are starting to move beyond just serving meals in the summer. Last fall was the start of the Kid’s Café program, which expanded Cuyahoga County Public Library’s partnership with the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. From October 2015 to May 2016, the Warrensville Branch staff served 533 unique people and 2991 dinners, which means almost 3000 times a child didn’t go to bed hungry.

On the West Coast, San Francisco Public Library’s Main Library is piloting an After School Suppers program this fall. Says Manager of Youth Services Christy Estrovitz, “While we’ve offered summer lunches for the past three years, we’re really excited to make sure youth have the opportunity for a healthy dinner.”

If you are considering serving meals at multiple locations, having a central person to initially set things up is a good idea. At Cuyahoga County Public Library, the Youth Programming Manager, Julia Boxler, tackles this role. Ready to give it a shot? Here are some additional resources to check out:

We welcome all your comments, articles, photos, book reviews, ideas, and suggestions for future OYAN Review newsletters! Please submit to oyanpublications@gmail.com.