By Ukee Washington

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Philadelphia pilot program is helping people with disabilities learn to cook, and wait till you see where it is.

You could call the kitchen a first edition.

“This is the Culinary Literary Center,” said librarian Jamie Bowers. “We are the first kitchen classroom in a public library in the United States.”

This is more than a beginners’ cooking class. It’s a social event for people who otherwise might not get the chance. Twice a month, about 20 people gather at the Free Library on Vine Street for a class called Cooking with Confidence. The lessons are specifically for people with developmental and other disabilities.

“We’re making lasagna,” said Russell, one of the students.

Instructor Shayna Marmar guides the class through the recipe verbally and visually.

“How many minutes are we going to wait?” Marmar asked.

“Seven!” the class responded.

Marmar also introduces the students to a variety of kitchen tools.

“Because of mobility issues, some folks might take to using a sharp knife really easily, even if they haven’t before,” Marmar said.

Holding up a vegetable peeler, Marmar asked the class, “If you don’t feel comfortable using this tool, do you need to use it?”

“No!” the class responded.

Marmar and the assistants help teach safe techniques to chop up the vegetables and herbs. The recipe included “eggplant, parsley, mainly all vegetables,” said one of the students, Gina Perrone.

The students learn to boil noodles safely. Then it’s the fun part: layering the lasagna. Marmar sings the layers of lasagna: “Noodles, cheese, veggies, sauce!”

As the students work together, they learn skills they can use at home.

“We really want to teach things that are practical,” Marmar said, “incorporate meals that can be made at home or wherever folks are cooking.”

Each class costs $5 to defray the cost of the instructor and the food, but the library tries to defray the cost.

Every class ends with sharing the meal they made, and some confidence to take home.

“Yeah, I know how to do it!” said Barbara Brown.

This pilot program is going so well, the library hopes to expand it. To find out more about the Cooking with Confidence class as well as other classes held there, go to libwww.freelibrary.org/culinary/blog.cfm?postid=2622

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