The MBLC offers an innovative category among our LSTA grant options for libraries that have come up with a unique solution to address a community need. One of this year’s innovative grants is Chicopee Public Library’s “Combining Good Ingredients”.
Many Chicopee residents live with food insecurity, in poverty, and/or in poor health. The library was approached by several local organizations looking to partner with it to help solve these pressing issues. The library’s central location and frequent hours combined with mobile outreach via the Bookmobile make it a natural hub for the collaborative efforts of the various community groups that serve Chicopee in terms of food needs. Recognizing the need in the city and the impact they could have, the library applied for and received an innovative grant.
With their grant, Chicopee Public Library has offered numerous programs that educate and entertain in order to encourage healthy eating, gardening, and cooking. Programs offered included Mediterranean Cooking, Pollinators in your Garden, and Soup’s Up, an intergenerational story time. Focusing on programming is giving patrons the opportunity for hands-on learning and the ability to ask questions in the moment. It has opened the door of the library to residents who might not be readers or who do not want to take home books and videos.
The cooking and gardening programs have been the most popular, though attendees have been very enthusiastic about all that has been offered. Nearly all the participants said they learned something new and that they would make changes from what they learned. Plus, they plan on coming back for more programs!
The library has also found some unique ways to carry out the grant beyond programming. A very popular collection of food toys has been added to the children’s room. Parents mention that having story times with food have given them ideas about how to use food toys at home with their children. The traveling art exhibit “Food for Thought: The Origins of Massachusetts Foods and Why It Matters” from the Commonwealth Museum was on display in January. If anyone looking to donate some seeds, the Chicopee Public Library will be happy to add them to its new seed library. And coming later this summer will be a portable pizza garden!
Through the Bookmobile, the Library is reaching members of its community who could greatly benefit from this project and might not use the traditional brick and mortar building. In the coming months, Bookmobile stops will include a pop-up food pantry with Lorraine’s Food Pantry. Additionally, ChicopeeFRESH (a grant funded farm to school program) will distribute fresh vegetables at Bookmobile stops during the summer months.
With this project, the library is trying to be part of the solution by offering opportunities and resources that allow Chicopee residents to make better and smarter choices. Through strong partnerships, hands-on learning, and targeted outreach, Chicopee Public Library shows what an innovative force in the community looks like.