The BPL’s First Nutrition Literacy Coordinator Cooks Up New Programs for Patrons

With a generous donation from the PDB Foundation, the Roxbury Branch’s Nutrition Lab is now the Boston Public Library’s hub for culinary literacy. Leading this exciting initiative is Stephanie Chace, the  Library’s  first  Nutrition  Literacy Coordinator, who began her work in August 2021. Stephanie  sat  down  with  the  Fund’s  Katie  Miller  to  share  more  about  her  role  and  how  food  and  cooking  engage  the  community  in  a  completely  new way.

Katie Miller: Your work here at the Library is so unique. What is a Nutrition Literacy Coordinator?

Stephanie Chace:  I spend  my  days primarily at the Roxbury Branch’s Nutrition Lab, but  I support all branches. I collaborate with cultural institutions, community groups, city agencies, area businesses, and nonprofits to develop nutritionally based programming for the Boston community. I love my job because I respond  to  the needs and interests of  our patrons and build programs for them. For me, nutritional literacy is not passive.  It is skill and knowledge based, that when shared in an engaging manner, allows  patrons to take action-able  steps  towards their own health.

KM: What are you looking forward to in the year ahead?

SC: I’m excited about all o the partnerships we’ve formed.  We are collaborating  with  Haley  House,  a café in Nubian Square. They have been part of the Roxbury community  for  a  long  time  and  we  are  setting  up  a  series  of   cooking  classes  –  one  for  families  and  another  for  seniors.  We are also  piloting a “teens and tacos” night with them. In February, Stop & Shop offered the online class, “Plant-based Eating in the African Diaspora.” We’re also doing an online program for individuals learning American Sign Language. Our class will teach signs for foods and snacks! In  March,  we  are collaborating with Apprentice Learning of Jamaica Plain  to  host  classes at the Nutrition Lab for young people to learn culinary skills to work in the food services industry.  We will also have our first in a series of Edible Alphabet cooking  classes,  based  on the program  created at the Philadelphia Free Library,  where  patrons  can  learn English through cooking.

KM: That’s a lot to kick off 2022!

SC:  There  is  so  much  to  do  and  I’m  eager  to implement all the terrific ideas I’ve received from patrons. I’m looking into a lecture series on African American  cooking,  pre-natal  and  post-natal nutrition classes,  a solar cooking workshop,  family recipe  sharing,  AND I am on a mission to  find the Roxbury Russet — an heirloom apple that was once  harvested in  the  area.  Maybe we’ll have a  cider press and an apple bake-off next fall! 

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