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Food Literacy Hero

Rivkah Sass

Once upon a time, an intelligent, witty and brilliant librarian named Rivkah Sass was invited to join a special alliance of Food Literacy Heroes.

As director of Sacramento Public Library, Rivkah has been instrumental in helping us expand our program throughout Sacramento. We are partnering with her and the Sacramento Public Library for the One Book event this fall to bring author Dan Barber to Sacramento to discuss his book “The Third Plate.” We are also partnering with the library on a Fruit to Root fundraiser with the theme of food waste. Acclaimed local chefs and bartenders will make delicious dishes from “wasted” food - items that are generally thrown away.

“Rivkah is a library rock star and a watermelon wonder! She always has a smile and a kind word for everyone, and is a true go-getter,” said Chief Food Genius Amber Stott. “She recognizes innovation and focuses her attention on programming that really matters for the library. We love our partnership with her and libraries!”

In our inaugural year, the library brought us on to deliver programming in 28 of their branches across the county, enabling us to reach 2,400 kids in one summer! We have continued to provide monthly programming with them ever since, and continue to provide around 50 programs every summer.

“It’s been kismet, really. The theme for the library’s Summer Reading program a couple of years ago was Reading is so Delicious and that’s when the Food Literacy Center did so many wonderful programs for us,” said Rivkah. “Wowed us then. Wows us now.”

A true blue bookworm who also loves good food, Rivkah enjoys reading stories and memoirs about food. Her favorite authors include Ruth Reichl and Laurie Colwin and she recommends Colwin’s Home Cooking, a memoir about the family kitchen that is accessible and human. For young readers, she recommends the National Geographic Kids Cookbook that takes kids on a fun food adventure with games, recipes, healthy eating and activities. Another wildly popular book for kids is Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes which shows that playing with food can be a lot of fun!

Good food was a family affair while Rivkah was growing up. Her mom worked all day and came home to make amazing dinners with meat, potatoes, salad and a vegetable. Her mom taught her how to make scrambled eggs when she was six and by the time she was 11, Rivkah was cooking dinner for her family. Her baking skills came from the tutelage of her Danish grandmother who taught her how to make a great pie crust. In addition to cooking, Rivkah leads a food literate lifestyle by growing plants at the Fremont Community Garden for a wild hive in a nearby tree. She also shops at the farmers market and the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op.

There are several important ties between food literacy and reading literacy. The childhood obesity rates in Sacramento are the same as the illiteracy rates: 40%. When kids aren’t eating good quality, nutritious foods, it affects their ability to learn. When they eat better, they learn better and retain the information. When they learn cooking through food literacy, they’re also learning vocabulary and reading skills in an applied manner.

As a librarian, Rivkah can help kids and adults find the information they need to foster their love of learning and spark their imagination. She’s excited about all the amazing programs the Sacramento Public Library has been able to do in the county, including the Food Literacy Center partnership and their Read and Feed gardens.

“I think libraries really are sacred places and I’m still awed by what’s available to us to learn. As a former children’s librarian, I find it truly magical to feed children’s imaginations,” said Rivkah.

For being a strong supporter of Food Literacy Center from the beginning and for continually helping us expand our programs through the libraries, we are dewberry delighted to name Rivkah Sass our Food Literacy Hero!

And they ate happily ever after. The End.

By Heather Teoh 

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