Access to food at libraries
In any given week, you can check out the Library’s What’s On Calendar, and find a full serving of programs geared toward food literacy and access. From dumpling-making with local entrepreneurs during Asian Heritage Month, to popular Grab & Go DIY Banana Bread Kits, to weekly Café social meetups, there is something for everyone.
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In 2021, Halifax Public Libraries piloted a Pantry Box program to ensure food programming at the Library could be accessible for all, including those who couldn’t get to a branch. In-person programs did not work for everyone, and transportation to a Library can be a barrier for some individuals. Through our community networks, Halifax Public Libraries offered pantry boxes filled with basic, culturally-appropriate pantry staples and accompanying recipes that allowed families to participate in food learning from home and build their confidence cooking in their kitchens. Halifax Public Libraries offered meal boxes to hundreds of families in our community, and plans to expand the program.
Libraries also offer snacks and socials in every branch. Every day we see children grabbing a healthy after-school snack, or seniors gathering together over a cup of tea and coffee.
This work is led by our Food Literacy Specialist and registered Dietitian, Emily Mathew. “We know that the rising cost of food can lead to lower food security for many community members,” she says. “And so, we wanted to fill this gap by not just offering free food and food charity, but we also wanted to teach people how to cook themselves, how to save money at the grocery store, and how to provide their families with affordable, nutritious meals that they can feel proud about serving and can access in a dignified way.”
Ken Williment, Programming and Community Engagement Specialist for the Basin District, is excited to see these services continue to evolve, woven into other aspects of Library service, such as housing support services, gardening, and intergenerational work.
“One of the greatest things in the Library, is just seeing the progress. Like, Emily is saying, she's looking forward five years. I'm looking back ten years and just seeing how far we've come.”
This story was originally published as part of the Library's 2021-22 Annual Report to our community. Read and explore the full report here.