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!