Don’t let all those books fool you. Though reading is our raison d’être at the Kansas City Public Library, we also impart life skills to people in the community, especially children and teens. And one of those skills we enjoy imparting the most: eating right.
On a recent Wednesday afternoon, representatives from one of the Library’s closest local partners, Harvesters Community Food Network , visited the Southeast Branch  to show a group of teens that eating healthy isn’t that hard.
“We empower kids by teaching them how to cook and showing them there’s more options than fast food and the microwave,” says Taryn Glidewell, Harvesters’ nutritional education coordinator.
Harvesters’ Kids in the Kitchen  program focuses on educating kids about different food groups and how to shop wisely – namely, by going to farmers’ markets.
At Southeast, Glidewell and three other Harvesters instructors talked about Kansas City’s biggest farmers’ market, the City Market , where, on a typical Saturday, 12,000 people stock up on organic, locally grown produce and other sustainable goods. As the food group of the day was grain, Harvesters passed out bags of corn, bran, rice, couscous and other grains for the teens to look at and touch.
Next, the teens played a game of bed-sheet ping pong to work up an appetite for the food they were about to fix: whole-grain bagels with cream cheese, fresh basil and peaches.
While the bagels toasted on an electric grill, the teens sliced up peaches, mixed chopped fresh basil with cream cheese and a little black pepper, and talked about why whole grain is better for you than the refined flour  found in so many junk food products.
“I never looked twice at a bagel before,” said one of the teens.
The basil cream cheese was a definite hit, as were the farm-fresh peaches. Seconds were passed around before the hourlong program concluded, and the kids went home with happy – and healthy – tummies.
Want to know how you can help feed hungry families in Kansas City? The Kansas City Public Library is holding its 2010 Food for Fines Week October 18 through 24. During this time, patrons can bring in unexpired, nonperishable canned or boxed food to reduce existing overdue fines by $1 per food item. All the food goes to Harvesters. Click here  to learn which food items are most needed.
-- Jason Harper