Feed them, and they will come.
We all know that food can bring in a lot of teenagers to a program, but is there a line that should be drawn at some point? Are we simply putting snacks out at a program that does not revolve around snacks just to get them to come, or should we be thinking more about food related programs that they will enjoy, and in turn make them want to come to non-food related programs?
I have seen both things done at various libraries, and I myself have put out snacks at programs that really didn’t need them. Based on how those programs went, I have decided not to put out snacks at a program if it does not fit with it.
“Why?” you might ask. For me the snacks took away from the actual program we were doing. If it’s a craft program they are too distracted by having the option to get up and get something to drink or munch on and do not participate in the program. Some of the kids did not even really want to do the project, but just wanted the food. Personally, I do not like this way of getting kids to attend, as they are not really there to enjoy it and it takes away from the kids that are actually there to work on the project. Also sometimes the program should not have food at it, depending on what they are working with (ex. bleach pen clothing, etc.). I know they are capable of washing their hands before eating, but the idea of having food and working with something that they should not ingest at the same program makes me nervous.
That being said, we can provide programs where food is an integral part and they can partake in that program while still eating. I do many food related programs, such as chocolate olympics, silent library, finals cafe, interactive movies, different types of cooking, various holiday snacks, and my book clubs. All of these incorporate food, but do not take them away from participating in what the actual program is. By attending these food related ones they will see the types of programs the library puts on, and will hopefully be excited to attend regardless if there are snacks or not. If these are the types of programs that work best for you, that’s awesome!
Ultimately you have to find what best works for your teens. If they want more food related programs, that’s great, ask them what type of programs they are looking for. Once I turned my programs into more food related ones and less just food being there, they participated more and were able to focus on what they were there to do, and enjoyed it. Both of my programs, food and non-food, are now well attended and they know what they expect to see when they come in.
What have you found works best for your teens with programs involving food?