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Camden County Library Wins State Grant to Nurture Minds and Bodies

~~NEWS RELEASE June 27, 2016
Contact: Mark Amorosi, Public Information Officer, (856) 772-1636 ext. 7323
 mamorosi@camdencountylibrary.org      http://www.camdencountylibrary.org

NJ Dept. of Labor awards $59,000 to fund mobile food literacy center

Considered a food desert, in 2014 Camden welcomed its first new supermarket in years. (KYW NewsRadio photo/Mike DeNardo)

VOORHEES, NJ – June 27, 2016 – The Camden County Library System is receiving a $59,000 grant from the NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development to promote food literacy in Camden and other communities throughout the county. The money will be used to fund a mobile culinary center designed to help foster literacy skills focused on nutrition, food selection and food preparation in communities around the County with low literacy levels and particularly in those like Camden designated as ‘Food Deserts’ by the US Department of Agriculture.

A centerpiece of the program will be a mobile kitchen complemented by a collection of books about nutrition, healthy eating and consumer literacy with iPads and a mobile hotspot available. The kitchen can be transported to any of the library’s eight branches and other locations to demonstrate cooking techniques and recipes.

The program will help residents at the lowest levels of literacy gain skills in reading, consumer math, converting recipes, interpreting nutrition labels and understanding supermarket signage. Other workshops will focus on healthy eating on a budget and ESL conversation classes centered on international cuisine.

In its proposal for the project, the Camden County Library established a real need by citing sobering statistics about Camden and surrounding counties in South Jersey. According to the USDA over 60 percent of the state’s food deserts are located in South Jersey’s six counties. The Courier-Post reported that Camden, with over 75,000 residents, saw its first new supermarket in 40 years opened in 2014, which is still the only operating grocery store in the city.

The USDA defines a food desert as communities where residents have limited ability to get affordable, nutritious food because they live far from a supermarket or large grocery store and don’t have easy access to transportation.

The lack of access to nutritious food and limited literacy skills, such as being unable to read food labels, supermarket signage or understand the cost of food relative to its nutritional value, are cited by the library as factors contributing to diagnosed cases of high blood pressure, high cholesterol or Type 2 Diabetes among residents living in food deserts like Camden.

The NJ Department of Labor and Work Force development recognizes that such critical health problems interfere with people’s ability to productively join and participate in the local workforce. The library will rely on its partnerships with Literacy Volunteers of Camden County and the Camden County One-Stop Career Center to implement the program and find residents in need of its services.

“As we engage with our communities, we have become conscious of the many external and social factors that contribute to low literacy and unemployment. We are committed to addressing these challenges through innovative library services such as this program,” says Camden County Library Director Linda Devlin.

The Camden County Board of Freeholders fully supports the library’s new program. “Access to important information such as nutrition and proper food preparation is essential to daily meal planning in order to raise a healthy family,” stresses Freeholder Bill Moen, liaison to the Camden County Library System.  “The Camden County Library’s mobile kitchen will make this vital information available and help to foster healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.”

As director of the library Devlin explains, “People can become literate in many different ways. Food is both a universal language and a universal need that we can use to advance literacy skills across cultures. The versatility of the mobile kitchen will allow us to reach many parts of the county through our branches and off-site through our partners. 

My team is excited to take library services in this new direction, and we look forward to working with our partners in making the program a success for the residents of Camden County.”

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Established in 1921, Camden County Library System seeks to meet the recreational, informational and educational needs of its customers with locations in Bellmawr, Camden, Gloucester Township, Haddon Township, Merchantville, Winslow Township and Voorhees.   The Library is governed and supported by the Camden County Board of Freeholders and the Camden County Library Commission.

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