Libraries as Spaces for Nutrition Education and Holistic Wellness

A Newsweek article highlighted a stark reality: the rise of childhood obesity marks not just a health crisis but a call to action for communities everywhere. That’s why community-based approaches are more necessary than ever, and “third places,” such as libraries, can be the catalyst for addressing these public health concerns and building holistic wellness habits while encouraging and empowering students to be the best versions of themselves.

The Third Place Concept

The term “third place” refers to spaces where people can gather and socialize outside of their homes (first place) and workplaces or learningplaces (second place). These places help foster deeper connections with the community and personal interests. By embracing the third-place concept, libraries can become havens for students to discuss and learn about nutrition, overall mind-body wellness, and the impact of nutrition on cognitive function.

A case study from the University of Aberdeen demonstrates how the third-place concept can be effectively implemented in academic libraries. The university has adapted its policies and procedures to create a more welcoming, engaging, and inclusive environment for learning. Some changes include relaxing food and drink policies, extending the library’s hours, opening 24/7 during revision and finals season, and allowing students to use the building for non-academic purposes.

The Power of Democratizing Nutrition Education

Libraries can play a vital role in teaching nutrition to kids and fostering healthy habits. By providing resources, programs, and workshops, academic libraries can help bridge the gap between people who can afford specialized education and those who cannot. This increased access to information can empower students with educational resources that can lead to healthier lifestyles inside and outside the classroom.

Libraries as Safe Spaces for Nutrition Education

By turning libraries into third places for students, we can create safe spaces where people can openly discuss nutrition, learn about its benefits and effects on overall mind and body wellness, and discover how it impacts focus, reading habits, and other brain functions. This transformation helps further educate and empower library patrons, enhancing their academic performance and personal wellbeing.

Case Study: Boosting Health with the “Snack Smart” Program in San José Libraries

A local San José library was the perfect place where children learned how to start building healthy habits to have a lasting change in food choices. This was the story of the “Snack Smart” program, which added a layer of nutrition education to after-school library visits for kids aged 9 to 14.

What Went Down

Partnering with San José State University, eight libraries served up interactive workshops teaching healthier snack choices and encouraging daily water intake instead of drinking sodas. Initially, the results were mildly positive. Children started drinking more water and incorporating more milk and veggies into their daily diet. While they were heading in the right direction to build healthy changes, changes that even lasted until a follow-up three months later, it became clear that consistency is the key ingredient for lasting change in dietary habits, as daily water intake was the only habit students maintained after the workshops.

The Takeaway

Yet, this case isn’t just about the conclusion regarding the need to build long-lasting healthy habits; it’s about the setting. The case highlights that libraries, often viewed as places of academic knowledge, can also catalyze mind-body wellness.

The story of San José’s “Snack Smart” program underlines the concept of “third places.” These innovative efforts to educate our youth about healthy eating habits within a beloved communal space—the library—illustrate just how powerful libraries can be in supporting physical health.

So, how can we use the library as a transformative space from here? Hopefully, by identifying potential nutritional needs and starting to foster community-based programs for the sake of the students and their wellbeing. 

On that note, if you also see the exciting possibilities in the intersection of libraries and health, and to learn more about Hiveclass and Green Beetz collaboration on Nutrition Curriculum products and offerings, sign up for the Hiveclass newsletter where you will find announcements, details and ways to connect with the team. 

You’ll have access to educational resources on how to transform your library into a haven that teaches healthy and long-lasting habits to your students, by having the nutrition resources to do so.

Categories: Libraries