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Elizabeth Fitzgerald | Lessons from GreatPHL

Elizabeth Fitzgerald is the Director of the Culinary Literacy Center at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Elizabeth talks about the many lesser-known offerings of the library, including the Culinary Literacy Center, a commercial-grade kitchen classroom located in the Parkway Central Library. It is the first space of it’s kind in a library in the country. Since 2014, Culinary Literacy programs have been attended by 30,000 people.

Participants learn “about cooking and through cooking.” Examples of topics the Center teaches include knife usage, filleting fish, canning jams, diet-specific cooking, and other useful food skills.

Elizabeth laughs about the growing popularity of public events like the Federal Donuts family class, which had people competing for a highly-coveted ticket.

“More than half of the participants are between the ages of 20 and 40, which is a magical demographic for libraries.. It’s a demographic that we tend to lose.”

Classes range from $0-40. Some cater to immigrants and refugees who want to learn English through the lens of cooking, while others are designed for those with disabilities like autism. One class for the vision-imparied is offered and taught by a blind chef. In addition, some cooking classes are geared toward children and educate about both physical and mental wellness.