This interactive program introduced adults to healthy cooking techniques and free online health information resources from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM) through a series of three two-hour cooking demonstrations. The project targeted people with obesity, diabetes and other weight-management concerns.
Each session began with a demonstration of two healthy recipes by a certified chef, followed by a 30-minute, computer-based demonstration of how to find reliable health information online using resources such as MedlinePlus , Flipster  and MasterFILE Premier .
To begin, we recruited two professionals: chef Carolyn “Bonnie” Aronson and Adult Services Librarian Gregg McCullough. Chef Bonnie provided all of the food supplies and prep equipment, while the Laurel Public Library provided all other materials (plates, bowls, etc.), made photocopies for the health information presentation sessions and provided folders and pens for students to take notes.
Gregg ordered bookmarks and workbooks from the National Library of Medicine  (NLM). He also called Sussex County Department of Libraries to inquire about promotional materials for its Universal Class  offerings and chose to include a tri-fold brochure.
We promoted this program through media channels to our target audience of older residents in our community with obesity, diabetes and other weight-management concerns. The library’s service population has a high proportion of seniors, a high obesity rate and low median income and education levels. This year 72 percent of the attendees were from our target group.
We received a $1,400 grant  from NNLM for this project.
Each of the three sessions — Sept. 12, 19, and 26, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. — had the same schedule.
Chef Bonnie arrived at the library one hour before the start of the session to set up her supplies and materials, and Gregg made copies of her handouts as she was setting up. Upon arrival at the first session, each attendee signed in and picked up their folder containing a pen, copy of materials from Chef Bonnie, plus a MedlinePlus bookmark, Go4LIfe workbook and other handouts. Gregg also moved the library’s laptop cart into the community room.
Gregg set up the tables and chairs for the cooking and computer instruction sessions, and Chef Bonnie set up her equipment.
When the program began, Chef Bonnie led the food preparation presentation. Following Chef Bonnie’s presentation, participants sampled the dishes she created while she and Gregg set up for the informational instruction session.
For the second portion, Gregg led the attendees to the instruction room, where he provided a brief exploration and demonstration of the resource that was being discussed that day. Attendees had the majority of the time to explore the resource at their own pace. Near the end of the session, attendees were encouraged to share their thoughts and experiences of the day.
The first session included instruction on MedlinePlus and Go4Life, the second on Flipster and MasterFile Premier, and the third on Universal Class.
The library assessed the program though attendance and surveys. Five of the seven attendees, or 71 percent, registered to attend all three sessions, while two of the seven (29 percent) were walk-ins who attended all three sessions. Perfect attendance was a first for this program. Additionally, 100 percent of attendees completed the post-program survey.
Attendance in 2017 was the lowest in three years, however. Some interested people expressed concern that they did not find out about the program soon enough and could not attend all three sessions. We plan to address these issues for the next sessions by getting the word out sooner and through more channels and allowing attendees to pick exactly which sessions they wish to attend.
Only one goal remained unaccomplished. The library had hoped to increase attendance and reach a more diverse audience from prior years. While the diversity somewhat increased, it was not as high as we had hoped. In the future, we plan to promote the event further in advance and through more channels, especially through our list of partners. For the next program sessions, we plan to recruit a volunteer or staff to help with set-up and instruction. Overall, we are very pleased with the outcome of this program and are proud of the progress.
Responses on NNLM's evaluation form were overwhelmingly positive. All seven attendees said the sessions introduced them to at least one new health resource and that they learned a new skill. Six of the seven strongly agreed or somewhat agreed that the training improved their ability to find helpful information online. One of the seven disagreed to these two questions, which was not surprising as one attendee did not use technology in their daily life. Six strongly agreed and one somewhat agreed that they planned to tell others about the resources.
We recommend this kind of program to libraries in communities where health and obesity need to be addressed. We recommend that you reach out to local chefs in your community to see if they would be interested in participating.
Since we had some difficulty with attendees being unable to attend all three sessions, we recommend that you announce the dates in advance and allow attendees to pick which session or sessions they wish to attend. Do not be shy about outreach and finding partnerships because they will help you get the word out.
About This Library
The Laurel Public Library is committed to serving the members our community with quality library services, resource materials and engagement programs.