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Exhibitions: Renaissance Science, Magic, and Medicine

Public Programming Example for Renaissance Science, Magic, and Medicine

Herbology in Action

Using MedlinePlus to Explore What We Eat and Why

In this culinary literacy program, public librarians host cooking classes using MedlinePlus’s healthy recipes and promote MedlinePlus as a source for reliable health information about common herbs and other plants.

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    • At Hogwarts School of Witchcraft, Harry Potter learns magic spells, charms, and potions. He is taught about the natural world and its uses in Herbology classes. Explore more through the Renaissance Science, Magic, and Medicine in Harry Potter’s World exhibition website
    • Culinary literacy, also called food literacy, programming at libraries encompasses education about food and learning through cooking
    • MedlinePlus’s Healthy Recipes show how to prepare healthy meals that help consumers develop a healthy eating pattern
    • MedlinePlus’s Herbs and Supplements helps consumers to find reliable health information such as effectiveness, safety concerns, medication interactions, and other names for common plant-based ingredients including many herbs and fruits
    • In this culinary literacy program, public librarians host healthy cooking classes to make magical, herbaceous dishes and explore wonderous ingredients from the natural world. Librarians share MedlinePlus’s healthy recipes and promote MedlinePlus as a source for reliable health information about common herbs and other plants
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    • Know MedlinePlus as a source for healthy recipes
    • Know MedlinePlus as a source for reliable information about understanding nutrition labeling and food safety
    • Know MedlinePlus as a reliable source for consumer health information about the uses and effectiveness of common ingredients
    • Learn new cooking skills and improve culinary literacy in a social and tactile program environment
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    • This program is suitable for all ages
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  • MedlinePlus is an online health information resource for patients and their families and friends

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    • Farmers markets
    • Grocery store chains with registered dietitians who offer nutrition and cooking classes
    • State and local nutrition assistance programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) offices and food banks
    • University nutrition and dietetics programs
    • USDA’s Land-Grant University and local Cooperative Extension System offices
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  • Time

    • Planning: 16 hours
    • Workshop duration: 90 minutes plus 1 hour of prep time and 1 hour of clean up


    • $50-100 for kitchen tools and ingredients for presenter(s)
    • Optional: $300-800 for kitchen tools and ingredients if the library is supplying participants with supplies

    Suggested supplies

    Per participant:

    • Ingredients listed in each recipe
    • Cleaning supplies
    • 1 knife
    • 1 cutting board
    • Measuring cups
    • 1 pair of tongs
    • 1 mixing bowl
    • 1 large baking sheet (some recipes)
    • 1 blender (some recipes)

    Before the program

    • Select one recipe from MedlinePlus’s Healthy Recipes and identify any recipe ingredients found in MedlinePlus Herbs and Supplements
    • Determine whether the program will be run in person with everyone participating; in person with one person demonstrating; virtually with the library providing a take-home kit with supplies and ingredients; or virtually with participants providing their own supplies and ingredients
    • Determine your library or program partner’s capacity for hosting an in-person cooking program; if participants will be cooking, serving, and eating food made during an in-person program, you will need to obtain food safety licenses and inspections well ahead of the program
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    • Amplify and contextualize this program by making it part of a national health observance such as national Nutrition Month (March) or Healthy Aging Month (September)
    • Offer holiday-themed cooking classes or classes during a food-themed event such as National Herb Week (first week in May), National Eat Your Vegetables Day (June 17), or National Berry Month (July)
    • If your library offers a Library of Things with kitchen tools, walk participants through finding items in the library catalog and checkout policies
    • Partner with a local farmers market, food bank, or nutrition assistance office to discuss support for getting groceries on a budget
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    1. Optional: assemble take-and-make kits with ingredients, supplies, and recipes for patrons to pick up and use at home
    2. Prep program space and ingredients, including sanitizing workspaces and washing produce
    3. Introduce MedlinePlus and walk participants through finding healthy recipes and reliable health information about herbs and supplements on the website
    4. Identify and share at least one relevant food safety tip from MedlinePlus
    5. Provide links for or hand out copies of the recipe(s) chosen from MedlinePlus and any corresponding ingredient fact sheets
    6. Identify all ingredients and cooking supplies used in the program and introduce how to read and follow a recipe
    7. Prepare and cook the dish(es) according to the recipe instructions
    8. While dishes are baking or participants are eating, use MedlinePlus’s Food Labeling page to discuss how to read and understand the nutrition facts on the recipe page
    9. Optional: identify library resources around healthy eating such as easy and healthy cookbooks or borrowable cooking supplies
    10. Optional: invite representatives from community agencies such as nutrition assistance office staff or farmers market staff to discuss budgeting and grocery purchasing support
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  • Food programming is increasingly common in public libraries, and many resources are available to guide program development, such as:

    1. Congregating in the Kitchen: Learning through cooking at the Free Library of Philadelphia
    2. Cooking at the Library
    3. Let's Move in Libraries, an international initiative to get people of all ages and abilities on the path to health. They offer a broad range of program ideas and resources to get started with healthy eating and cooking classes at libraries
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Last Reviewed: February 28, 2022