As part of our "To Live and Dine in L.A." Teen Cooking Series, teens learned about the culinary history of Los Angeles and created healthy smoothies from fresh and frozen fruit and juices.
The book "To Live and Dine in L.A.,"  written by Josh Kun, explores the history of Los Angeles through food menus. Looking through LAPL’s photographic database, I located a picture from around 1940 of a woman and her son at an Orange Julius  stand in the Central Southern area, near the library’s location.
Drawing from our area's food history, we decided to create our own Orange Julius and other blended fruit drinks and smoothies. Our teens really enjoy Jamba Juice, but we wanted to make healthier smoothies without ice cream. We wanted to show them healthier options and instill in them healthier eating habits — to encourage them to reach for something other than chips and soda after school — and to expose them to new and different foods (e.g. papaya, guavas, kefir milk, almond and coconut milk).
We created fliers and sent them to the schools, neighborhood council meetings and community centers, and we posted on our Facebook and Twitter accounts. (For a calendar of Teen Cooking Series events, download the materials under "Attachments" at right.)
We spent money on food and equipment. We purchased one new blender (and borrowed a couple from staff), new measuring cups, spoons and cutting boards. We purchased in-season fruit, frozen fruit, juice, milk and non-dairy milks. We ended up spending about $150 for all supplies.
On the day of the event, we set up different work stations with the blenders, fruit, liquids, ice, cutting board, measuring cups and spoons. I conducted a short demonstration, talked about “To Live and Dine in L.A.,” gave a short history of smoothies, and talked about the importance of fruits and healthy eating. Teens then broke up into different groups. We offered recipes they could follow, or they were welcome to create their own. We had three staff members on hand, but the teens self-organized and at least one person stepped up in each group to act as the leader. The program went well, but we did end up running out of some of the fruit.
We were able to borrow most of the equipment and staff donated some supplies. You’ll really have to spend most of the money on fruit, milk and juice. We kept it simple, but you could add other ingredients like spinach or kale. We definitely should have had more bananas!
About This Library
Part of the Los Angeles Public Library system, the Angeles Mesa Branch Library serves a highly dense and economically disadvantaged population. The 2014 population for zip code 90043 was 46,429, and the median income was $41,106, placing many of our families in the "very low income" bracket, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.