Food for Thought: Fueling the Mind in Kentucky

By Michele Farrell
Senior Library Program Officer

Kentucky has developed an interesting way of addressing two problems: the slide in reading skills that happens over the summer months, and hunger. While on my site visit, I got to meet with people who are making a difference in the lives of children and teens in Kentucky. As Heather Dieffenbach, children and youth consultant at the Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives explained, Kentucky has the fifth highest ranking in food insecurity in the nation. Additionally, low-income children lose about 22 percent of their reading skills over the summer.

To address these problems, the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives partnered with the Kentucky Department of Education, public libraries and other local partners to expand the summer reading programs into areas targeting at-risk children. In 2013, $151,711 in LSTA funds was used by libraries to provide programming and staff support for summer literacy services while the Department of Education provided the meals through USDA’s Summer Food Service Program. This program has been offered since 2011 and continues to be well received.

Patricia Richards, children’s services coordinator at the Covington Branch Library, runs the Fueling the Mind project for the Kenton County Public Library. The actual program is carried out at the Ludlow Elementary School because it has food facilities. It’s quite an operation. When I arrived, they had already served over 200 meals that morning and the children were still coming. Each child has a meal, does a group arts or science activity, then they either are read to or they pick out a book to take home to read. Patricia explained how a log is kept of each child’s reading activity. The children were having fun and were delighted to be able to take a book home. One little boy wanted to take two books he was so thrilled. I saw the same response from the children at the Union County Public Library and the Village Branch of the Lexington Public Library.

As Debbie McClanahan, the director at Union County, explained, these children have few options for things to do during the summer. While visiting here I saw an older child with special needs being assisted and enjoying the background music that was on, making this a fun experience for all.

Betty Abdmishani, the manager at the Village Branch, explained that her branch is a safe haven and provides many services to its Latino and African American clientele. The Village Branch is in a strip mall surrounded by fast food chains. Betty and Kinzie Gaunce, the children’s librarian, said that they were providing an alternative for the children so they learn how to choose healthy food items like the fruits and vegetables served in the program.

When I arrived, there were 50 young people waiting for the program to begin. Sixteen public libraries offer Monday through Friday summer reading programs and meals for at-risk children. What struck me the most was how the children and staff were so involved in the activities and how everyone was happy. You couldn’t fake the enthusiasm and joy that I saw in each of these locations. The goals of Fueling the Mind are to encourage libraries to expand the duration of summer reading programs, increase the number of programs they offer, and increase the number of children in their reading programs. Last year, libraries that participated in this project extended their program lengths by 32 percent and offered 121 percent more programs.

Learn more on how museums and libraries can get involved with the Summer Food Service Program.

USDA’s Summer Food Service Program:

Posted in Afterschool/Out-of-School, Education Support, Grants to State Library Administrative Agencies, Health | Leave a comment

Food, Glorious Food!

The Food, Glorious Food! exhibit at the Bellefonte Art Museum for Centre County celebrates the local natural resources of Central Pennsylvania  that grace our tables. The art installation runs from June 1 to August 31 in the Windows on the World gallery and includes sculpture, photographs, paintings and botanical drawings created by 20 museum artists that all relate to food. Hands-on culinary activities throughout the summer engage chefs, farmers, and local experts in an effort to connect the public with our culinary identity.

Botanical drawing by Holly Fritchman of tomatoes and corn.

Each month of the summer, one fruit and one vegetable is highlighted with programming. June featured wild mushrooms and strawberries. July will focus on garlic and blueberries and August, tomatoes and corn. BAM artist Holly Fritchman created the botanical series and donated an original to remain on silent auction throughout the summer with proceeds to benefit the museum.

A Let’s Move! museum, the Bellefonte Art Museum for Centre County hosts free and public monthly Family First Sunday receptions and workshops that will continue the food theme through the summer.  June’s Vegetable Mask-making activity proved popular with the more than 300 attendees who snacked on vegetables and fruits while watching the children create art. July’s Family First Sunday will be held in the museum’s “Garden of Eatin” and will showcase edible flowers and how use them. The August Family First Sunday will be a block party in front of the museum on historic Allegheny Street and will feature a popcorn workshop with a heritage cob corn. A Food, Glorious Food! companion “cookbook-let” containing articles and recipes about local people and what they grow, forage or catch will launch on July 9 in a digital format that can be downloaded for free through iTunes.

People examine materials prepared by a registered dietician.

Real fruits fuel the mask making workshop at the June Family First Sunday open house. Museum director Pat House, seated on left, with granddaughter Harper House and Connie Levine examine the materials prepared by Carrie Lyons, a registered dietician, artist and program innovator at the museum.

The BAM also has three week long summer camp programs for children aged 6 to 10. The first one, Gooey You II, concluded on Friday with a reception that included pickles that the campers made during the week. 

A drawing of a fruit face created by summer camp children.

Gooey You II campers created Fruitfaces during their camp week at the Bellefonte Museum.

Museum member only events are designed to grow the membership which is a modest $30/per individual or $40/per family. Members can attend any or all of eight special events for free, thanks to a generous gift from a museum patron. A workshop took place on June 8 at the Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center with an illustrated lecture on local mushrooms, followed by a walk in the woods to search for them, and a cooking demonstration.

On the night of the June full moon, a tapas dinner and wine tasting that featured late spring/early summer local foods such as ramps, morels, asparagus, trout and bison was held at a mountaintop residence and attended by 50 members.

A fresh pea puree anchored sugar snap pods that bared their peas, topped with a shiso leaf with crabmeat and a pink dianthus blossom.

A fresh pea puree anchored sugar snap pods that bared their peas, topped with a shiso leaf with crabmeat and a pink dianthus blossom.

Upcoming  members only events include a garlic harvest at a home garden combined with a wood-fired al fresco pizza making demonstration, a blueberry picking outing and potluck, an August early morning corn harvest sampling, and an heirloom tomato tasting. The series concludes on August 31 with a pig roast in the vaults of the historic Roopsburg Brewery, operational until 1885.

For more information about the Bellefonte Art Museum for Centre County visit their website, Facebook page, or download the brochure for the Food, Glorious Food! exhibit.

Posted in Afterschool/Out-of-School, Health, Let's Move! Museums & Gardens | Leave a comment

The National Student Poets Take New York (again!)

Ed note: This is a cross-post from the AYAW Blog.  You can find the original blog post here

The 2013 Class of National Student Poets (from the left: Nathan Cummings; Louis Lafair; Michaela Coplen; Sojourner Ahebee; Aline Dolinh) enjoy their time in New York City for the 2014 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards National Events.

The 2013 Class of National Student Poets (from the left: Nathan Cummings; Louis Lafair; Michaela Coplen; Sojourner Ahebee; Aline Dolinh) enjoy their time in New York City for the 2014 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards National Events.

 

We are still reeling from a dynamic and rich Scholastic Art & Writing Awards National Events week in New York City! During the Events, the 2013 Class of National Student Poets led workshops with third and fourth graders at Harlem Academy, walked across Carnegie Hall’s legendary stage and presented their community service projects with passion at the Saturday Student Showcase at the Art.Write.Now.2014 National Exhibition, which took place at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at Parsons the New School for Design and Pratt Manhattan Gallery.  These exhibitions featured over 1,000 visual and literary award-winning works from students in grades 7 through 12. This week, the National Student Poets will join other accomplished youth poets at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Aspen, CO!

Student poets on a panel table having a discussion.

The 2013 Class of National Student Poets presented their community service projects for a packed audience at the Saturday Student Showcase’s special National Student Poets Program panel discussion.

National Student Poet and Midwest Representative Sojourner Ahebee reflects on her presentation at the Saturday Student Showcase on June 7:

“I wanted my audience to see, firsthand, what poetry had afforded me throughout my year as a national poetry ambassador. I wanted them to see the different spaces and avenues poetry could lay claim to, whether that be in a nursing home during a Michigan winter or an Ivoirien classroom thousands of miles away. I wanted my audience to see the various narratives that poetry has the power of uncovering, and, like Gandhi, I wanted them to see the power of losing oneself in the service of others. But most importantly, I wanted my audience to realize that one is never too young to make a serious mark on the world, and to have the world return this mark.”

Student poets in an elementary school classroom teaching kids about poetry.

The National Student Poets led poetry workshops for third and fourth graders at the Harlem Academy on June 6, 2014.

National Student Poet and Northeast Representative Michaela Coplen connects the power of fostering creativity early:

“Our time at Harlem Academy reinforced in my mind the need for the work that the National Student Poets Program supports. There is a real disconnect between that youthful discovery of poetry and a mature creation and appreciation of poetry–we need to help bridge that gap, facilitating growth while protecting and nourishing that initial sense of wonder that I saw in the 3rd and 4th graders’ work.

An auditorium filled with people with the student poets at a front panel table.

Award winners, family, friends and educators attend the special National Student Poets Program panel discussion at Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at Parsons the New School for Design in New York City!

National Student Poet and West Representative Nathan Cummings on their community service projects:

We’ve been able to reach a broad range of communities this year with our community service projects. Louis’s outreach efforts to educators, Michaela’s workshops with military kids, Sojourner’s with Alzheimer’s patients, Aline’s with ESOL students, and my own with hospital patients—the breadth and diversity of our projects really showcases the program’s scope. We’re called “National” Student Poets for a reason: poetry should be for everyone, across the nation. Age, health, culture, and language don’t need to be barriers.”

Student poets looking at a sculpture on display.

National Student Poets Michaela Coplen, Louis Lafair and Aline Dolinh stop for a moment to observe Madison Brownson’s 2014 Portfolio Gold Medalist work on display at the Art.Write.Now.2014 National Exhibition at Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at Parsons the New School for Design in New York City!

National Student Poet and Southeast Representative Aline Dolinh on meeting so many young artists and writers in New York City for the 2014 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards National Events:

I loved getting to meet so many new people during National Events! I made friends from New York to Los Angeles, and getting to see the utter spectrum of experience at Carnegie Hall was incredible.   Hearing David Strathairn read onstage, breathing new life into my old poetry, felt nothing short of transcendental.”

2013 National Student Poets, National Student Poets Program Coordinator Jeanette Anderson and Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Susan Hildreth, celebrate the Art.Write.Now.2014 National Exhibition at Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at Parsons the New School for Design in New York City!

2013 National Student Poets, National Student Poets Program Coordinator Jeanette Anderson and Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Susan Hildreth, celebrate the Art.Write.Now.2014 National Exhibition at Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at Parsons the New School for Design in New York City!

National Student Poet and Southwest Representative Louis Lafair on the role of educators:

I would never be where I am today without the guidance and support of teachers. I’m sure that everyone in the audience already recognized the importance of teachers, but hopefully my presentation served as a brief reminder of how much a simple thank-you can mean to them, of how, after all the incredible work they do for us, it’s nice—every once in a while—to hear some validation in return.”

 

The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers partner to present the National Student Poets Program (NSPP), the country’s highest honor for youth poets presenting original work. Five outstanding high school poets whose work exhibits exceptional creativity, dedication to craft, and promise are selected annually for a year of service as national poetry ambassadors.

Posted in Education Support, Lifelong learning/ Intergenerational, Meet the National Student Poets | Leave a comment

Interview: Nebraska Library Commission

Rodney G. Wagner, Director, Nebraska Library Commission

Rodney G. Wagner, Director, Nebraska Library Commission

IMLS staff interviewed state librarians to discuss how their new five-year plans for LSTA Grants to States funds (2013-2017) differ from their past plans (2008-2012), and how they see the needs of library users in their states changing and evolving. This post is part of a series and features IMLS Senior Library Program Officer Michele Farrell interviewing Director Rod Wagner. Read more about the Nebraska Library Commission’s priorities in IMLS’ state profile for Nebraska.

 

Michele: What were the three most important community needs you sought to address through library services between 2008 and 2012?

Rod: With the economic downturn, those of us in the library community know that people look to libraries for their personal needs, as well as for career information. With the increased use of technology in all forms, libraries have really been challenged to keep up to date and be helpful—providing everything from public access computers to assistance with e-readers. A significant change in the last two years is the interest in digital content, which seems to be accelerating, and we’ve had an increasing number of libraries provide downloadable book services. We have made Grants to States funding available to libraries for subgrants, and they have used them to obtain new technology in their libraries, and for continuing education based on emerging trends and issues, such as digital literacy. In sum, it’s providing technology in libraries for public use, e-books and digital content, and also training. One of the challenges we’ve faced in the last several years is higher turnover in library leadership and other staff, so we’ve increased our training activities and have been pretty successful.

 

Michele: How did the evaluation of the programs and initiatives developed over the 2008-2012 cycle affect the state’s plan for 2013-2017?

Rod: The surveys that we sent out had a really good response, and they confirmed that things we were doing were effective and that library respondents wanted us to continue. This includes the online databases that we offer, which are in part supported by the Grants to States funding. People want us to continue to provide the ones we are supplying, and of course they want some additional things too. One rather prominent need is databases that address the elementary and middle school levels. We’re pretty good on the upper end, for high school, college, and adult users. But we’re not really addressing the younger ages, particularly the middle school level. We’re requesting state funds in order to add some new databases in the coming year. Training opportunities and the availability of grant support through subgrants were also affirmed through the survey responses. The issues that people brought up as most important are the ones we incorporated into our new five-year plan.

 

Michele: What were the three most important community needs you plan to address through your library program in the next five years?

Rod: Digital literacy, which includes working with people to make use of technology for their personal and work-related needs; working with our state Department of Labor to provide employment information and assistance; and supplying access to federal, state, and local government information, because so many of those agencies are requiring people to obtain and submit information online. We highlight federal publications that we think are especially important, as well as Nebraska state government services and resources. We also have a continuing emphasis on early childhood education, including working with children, young adults, and preschool-aged children and encouraging them to develop reading skills. The children and young adult services librarian on our staff works with librarians across the state to help them with youth programming and the selection of books and other content. She does a lot of training and workshops and works with our six regional library system administrators for their youth programming targeted to school and public librarians. LSTA funds also help support author programs at schools and libraries. We have an active summertime program that many libraries devote a lot of time and attention to, and that results in involvement from many children across the state.

We’re eager to put into place things that we took a hard look at as part of our five-year evaluation and our new five year plan, and we’ll engage our state advisory council on libraries for discussion and input. LSTA is a great program, and we enjoy being part of it.

Posted in 21st Century Skills, Early Learning, Grants to State Library Administrative Agencies, Learning Tools and Interactives (Information/Media literacy), Lifelong learning/ Intergenerational, Workforce Development/Job Assistance | Leave a comment