Five Healthy Programming Ideas

Kendra Morgan /

Libraries are champions for healthy communities. Along with local partners and as part of their participation in Health Happens in Libraries, five public libraries created community programming focused on topics ranging from healthy eating, to exercising and managing health. Each library is profiled in a case study that captures their processes and the outcomes. Use these case studies as starting points to explore healthy programming ideas for your community.

Health Education Highlighted (PDF)
Buffalo & Erie County Public Library (NY), in coordination with Catholic Health’s Women Care division, convened 44 community organizations in a Women’s Health Fair. The fair was held at the Central Library location and more than 300 community members attended. Everyone was welcome to learn about local health and wellness resources, and participate in interactive activities such as free bone density screening, a keynote address on healthy relationships, and Tai Chi and Zumba demonstrations, among others.

Community Members Move and Groove (PDF)
In collaboration with the local Parks and Photo courtesy: Hampton Public LibraryRecreation department, Hampton Public Library (VA) sponsored an all-ages Zumba program that got 38 people moving and exercising together at the library. This event was customized for all ages and skill levels by a local Zumba instructor who works frequently with Parks and Recreation to host events at local community centers. During the event, the library was able to cross-promote library and partner resources, including exercise DVDs available for check-out and community calendars for future Zumba opportunities. The high volume and total energy of this free event also drew people in from outside the library, who heard the music and decided to join the fun.

Addressing Food Insecurity with Personal Support (PDF)
St. Charles Parish Library (LA) traditionally sponsors a “Food for Fines” drive in April, when patrons who donate food get a dollar off of library fines for every item they bring in. As a result, when a local food pantry needed a place to host donation boxes as part of its own “Need to Feed” drive, its leaders knew they could turn to the library. This initial connection sparked broader collaborative planning for an interactive workshop with community members who utilize food bank services. The workshop focused on how to read food labels to understand nutrition information, and how to plan and prepare healthy meals using food in a food box. Participants shared goals for attending such as learning to eat well to manage chronic conditions, and to model healthy behavior for their families.

Healthy Food Competition Heats Up (PDF)
Photo courtesy Crandon Public Library
Crandon Public Library (WI) and its partners hosted a community cooking competition to promote healthy recipes and ingredients. Using space at the local school cafeteria, participants were given 30 minutes to create a unique panini dish, using the secret ingredient of eggplant and other pantry items. Participants competed in three categories: adults (18+), teens (12–17) and youth + adult (11 and younger). Local restaurant owners participated as celebrity judges. The library was able to display more than 25 related items from its collection as part of the event.

Individuals Empowered to Manage Their Health (PDF)
Along with the local health department, the Wilkes County Public Library (NC) brought a six-week workshop to community members, focused on chronic disease self-management. This “Better Choices, Better Health Workshop” was taught by certified instructors from the health department, based on curriculum developed at Stanford University.

These libraries have provided inspiring ideas and opportunities in their communities. To learn more about contributing to the health of your community, check the rest of our great Health Happens in Libraries resources.