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Philadelphia library cooks up courses in new demonstration kitchen to boost literacy, health

  • Food Culinary Literacy -1.jpg

    Chef Jose Garces gives knife sharpening a demonstration at the Free Library of Philadelphia's Culinary Literacy Center, Monday, June 2, 2014, in Philadelphia. The newly opened a multimillion-dollar, state-of-the-art demonstration kitchen is an unusual culinary literacy program that aims to use cooking classes, renowned local chefs and specialized curricula as a way to improve literacy rates and nutrition habits in a city badly in need of both. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) (The Associated Press)

  • Food Culinary Literacy -2.jpg

    Chef Marc Vetri gives knife sharpening a demonstration at the Free Library of Philadelphia's Culinary Literacy Center, Monday, June 2, 2014, in Philadelphia. The newly opened a multimillion-dollar, state-of-the-art demonstration kitchen is an unusual culinary literacy program that aims to use cooking classes, renowned local chefs and specialized curricula as a way to improve literacy rates and nutrition habits in a city badly in need of both. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) (The Associated Press)

  • Food Culinary Literacy -3.jpg

    From left, Fatou Gueye Luis Soler, and Suzanne Weltman, all with the Center for Literacy, demonstrate how to make whole grain trail mix at the Free Library of Philadelphia's Culinary Literacy Center, Monday, June 2, 2014, in Philadelphia. The newly opened a multimillion-dollar, state-of-the-art demonstration kitchen is an unusual culinary literacy program that aims to use cooking classes, renowned local chefs and specialized curricula as a way to improve literacy rates and nutrition habits in a city badly in need of both. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) (The Associated Press)

  • Food Culinary Literacy -4.jpg

    Chefs Marc Vetri, left, and Jose Garces meet at the Free Library of Philadelphia's Culinary Literacy Center, Monday, June 2, 2014, in Philadelphia. The newly opened a multimillion-dollar, state-of-the-art demonstration kitchen is an unusual culinary literacy program that aims to use cooking classes, renowned local chefs and specialized curricula as a way to improve literacy rates and nutrition habits in a city badly in need of both. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) (The Associated Press)

  • Food Culinary Literacy -5.jpg

    Chef Jose Garces gives speaks at the Free Library of Philadelphia's Culinary Literacy Center, Monday, June 2, 2014, in Philadelphia. The newly opened a multimillion-dollar, state-of-the-art demonstration kitchen is an unusual culinary literacy program that aims to use cooking classes, renowned local chefs and specialized curricula as a way to improve literacy rates and nutrition habits in a city badly in need of both. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) (The Associated Press)

What's cooking at the Philadelphia public library? Plenty, now that it has a new million-dollar kitchen at its main downtown branch.

The library has whipped up an unusual culinary program designed to improve the city's low literacy rate. Experts say about 500,000 Philadelphia adults don't read above an eighth-grade level.

Some courses will use recipes and nutrition labels to teach language and basic math skills. Other classes are geared toward immigrant restaurant workers who are learning English.

The kitchen unveiled last week includes three ovens, a walk-in refrigerator and a terrace for an herb garden.

A spokeswoman for the Public Library Association says the program reflects how libraries nationwide are striving to address larger community concerns.

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