Monthly Archives: December 2014

‘final’ Blog post :/ :))

This semester has been interesting yet fruitful to say the least. Looking back a lot of what we did and were asked to do makes more sense in seeing how one thing lead to the next. The investigatory nature of the Pollan readings, for instance, helped in setting the ‘tone’ and getting us in the ‘go getter’ mindset.

In my ‘you will eat all of that’ blog post I illustrate this further….“That then redirects my focus to the possible association of ‘power struggle’ to forced food consumption. Meaning at the root of it all there is much more to the situation then is brought to the surface…”

In association with the ‘go getter’ mindset ‘collaboration’ was a key component within this semester’s framework (obviously). In my post about Carl Kleiner’s food photography I highlight this: “This work was a collaborative effort, which is now causing me to be inspired to work with another person on a piece…. food photography, when done well, is actually rather awesome (in my opinion).”

Something especially ingrained in my memory are the times in which speakers came to talk to us. Two that stick out are the service learning lady and Terrence Walker. Initially I thought I knew what service learning was, but she truly did prove me wrong in that I hadn’t until then acknowledged it’s true ‘depth’. I thought it was an added touch for her to give us all notepads because generosity, in my opinion, is crucial in credible service work.

She stated that service work  “enhances a sense of civic responsibility.”

“Civic, was a word that I was particularly struck by. The speaker was very receptive to my response and as well as overall engaged with conversation in whole. She pointed out that service learning is a hand on practice and an opportunity to learn actively. A classmate of mine added to the list by stating that it is also ‘free labor’. All of which are good and valid points.

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Another thing I will be taking from this class is a better understanding of what it means to ‘take initiative’. Initiative in the context of service work is as i’m coming to realize EVERYTHING– it can do so much!

An example of a little ‘overestimated initiation ‘s exhibited here: “Elizabeth said that I should put the apron on since ‘i am cooking’ (i felt very special) and so I did which then naturally meant well then I should be the one to take the fries out of the oven… a simple task yet I created a little trouble when the excess sugar/oil mixture dripped off of the pan as I was taking it out. This little ‘drippage’ thus caused a frantic scare of whether or not the smoke alarm was going to set off.” 

However, all was okay seeing as our group efficiently handled the situation! (took initiative)

Back to the ‘collaboration’ mention, getting a long well with others has definitely been an ongoing expectation this semester…. Of course polite behavior should be an expectation in any case however in this context it really does or did have the potential to make or break the situation…. Fortunately our group vibed well together and like Ella previously mentioned we really did have a good time with the group me app! (thanks Alexandria) ha ha I might bug them all next semester despite the class being over… I appreciate their diverse range of personalities…

“Everyone appeared to be having a good time. The environment was light and cheerful. For me, personally, the environment is crucial when making art. So A++ too us!”

Another cool thing about this class and the service work component is given that we are all different and all possess different strengths and weaknesses we truly all were given the chance to let our ‘strengths’ be acknowledged and recognized. y’know what I mean? for example Ella’s ‘ad’ was really excellent and in turn earned her well deserved ‘props’ for a skill she is fortunate enough to possess (probably requires a lot of effort on her end). This ideology is also true when referring to Aster’s legendary video…. simply fabulous… highlighting her talent which we all are aware has come from persistence and dedication!

To juxtapose this I will bring up our meme assignment which everyone seemed to really go all the way with…except for me…. :/ ha why was that? who knows!

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(my group members creations)

On the social media platform the ram pantry really allowed me the opportunity to practice my ‘customer service voice’ as in the type of voice the receptionist (i think thats what they are called) at hotels speak in… the effortlessly charming, kind, easygoing attitude they all ‘portray’ while on ‘duty’. The ram pantry has given me the chance to really take responsibility and do the job. Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 11.08.58 PM  Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 11.14.28 PMScreen Shot 2014-12-07 at 11.16.10 PMScreen Shot 2014-12-07 at 11.17.04 PM

I feel grateful and privileged to have received the valuable exposure to what’s out there and what’s going on via the ram pantry. The research I did on food advocacy groups is research I do not think would have resonated like it had, had it not been delivered on the ram pantry ‘platform’. Seeing its ‘real world application’ and  ‘value’ really helped in my understanding.

That applies to the people who work/volunteer/work at the pantry. Really not any different then myself. Basically I could be in that situation, however my situation does not demand for it. Working at the pantry has also helped me in connecting to the school as a whole, not in a portion or in a restricted denomination of vcu but it in its entirety. Something I hoped to gain the second I chose to register for the class– completely unaware of the extent or magnitude of which this wish was going to be fulfilled.

Final Reflection Essay

John Muckerman

UNIV 211

Professor Boaz


Final Exam: Reflective Essay

When I first signed up for Food for Thought, I did so not really knowing what I was getting myself into. I picked it because I needed a non-business class elective and I just genuinely like food and cooking so I thought it would be a perfect fit. I soon realized that this class wasn’t going to be a piece of cake (no pun intended). The point of the class was to work with a client but also blog throughout the year about our experiences and also other assignments. We learned how impactful food is to all of us and how some struggle each an every day just to get food. The class worked with three different organizations all right here in Richmond, which shows how relevant the hunger problem is in almost every big city. Although this class was more challenging than expected, I am proud of myself for sticking through it and glad that I learned such valuable material along the way.

Before this class began, I had no idea that VCU had a food pantry for students who couldn’t afford a meal plan. When I heard a little information about the three organizations we could choose from I knew the VCU Ram Pantry was the one I wanted to work with. I love my school and I wanted to help out my fellow classmates that are less fortunate. Working with the Ram Pantry seemed like a luxury compared to what I was hearing about from the other groups. We had Terrence Walker who was ready and willing to let us do just about anything (except burn the place down) to help the Ram Pantry grow. He was very good at communicating with our group and our group was good at communicating with him.

Volunteering at the ram pantry was one of my favorite parts of the class because I gained an enormous amount of real-world experience. Usually the most important things you learn in life are the intangibles and this class gave me the opportunity to do exactly that. I am very proud that the ram pantry group brought new and exciting ideas to the ram pantry. The most influential idea that our group brought to the ram pantry was the making of food samples. This was really fun for me because I love cooking and also trying new things. One of the biggest problems Terrence had at the pantry was the fact that they had all this fresh and beautiful produce, but none of the students who used the pantry were taking any of it. So we decided to make food samples to show them that they can make great tasting meals that are very simple. By doing this I think we encouraged more people to broaden their palate and to try new foods. I am very happy with what we did at the ram pantry this semester and I think we have set them up for even more success in the future years.

(Below is a picture of me volunteering at the Ram Pantry making food samples)


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Another aspect of the class that I am proud to say I accomplished is helping with the ram pantry’s social media. This was one of the more challenging things that the ram pantry group had to deal with because it is not easy to basically start a social media from the ground up. We started both a twitter and Instagram account and managed to get about 100 followers on twitter and 103 on Instagram. Creating and managing these social media platforms is something that I can put on my résumé`. We learned from a first hand experience how important social media can be to an organization and for us to have done this for a non-profit while still in school is pretty amazing. The hardest thing about starting the social media was obviously gaining followers. It was difficult because many people didn’t know what the ram pantry was and also they didn’t have an incentive to follow them. Looking back, I believe that it would have been a better idea if we promoted the ram pantry to gain awareness rather than jumping straight into the social medias. Also a problem that I found with the social media is the fact that people simply didn’t have the interest to follow them. I do see where these people are coming from because there really is no point in someone who doesn’t use the ram pantry to follow them. I’m not sure how this issue could be avoided going forward, but it is something that should be addressed in the future.

Another portion of my experiences in this course that I would like to reflect on comes from my blog. I really enjoyed doing the makes this semester and I wish we could have started them earlier in the year because it felt a little rushed towards the end of the semester. My favorite make had to be the memes because I had always seen them before but never created one so it was a great opportunity to do so. I think that they are a good way to get a message across in a humorous fashion. My favorite meme that I created was the one seen below. It is of two pistachios’ that look like they are about to kiss and reads, “Make food not war.” I like this one because it is the most aesthetically pleasing and is also a bit funny, if I do say so myself.


Another make that I enjoyed was doing the food desert pictograph to visually show how difficult it is for some people to get food from a grocery store. I liked this make because I had never heard of a food desert before and it really opened up my eyes to see some of the peoples struggle. The pictograph the route that some have to take that live in the east end of Richmond. The pictograph shows that if you left at noon you would get to the Food Lion at 12:35 PM and you wouldn’t get home until 2:26 PM! This assignment opened my eyes to see why people who live in these food desert areas are practically forced to eat unhealthy fast food instead of being able to get fresh produce.


My last make that I enjoyed doing was the food art. I thought this make was the most fun to do because it was the most hands-on out of all the makes. This make was challenging because it takes a lot more artistic ability than I expected. It definitely made me have a new outlook on food in general and how it can be turned into beautiful art. Below is my favorite food art picture that I took. It is of a simple potato that I dug a small hole in and put a bunch of sprinkles inside. I liked this one the most because I turned a basic old potato that isn’t very exciting and through all these bright colored sprinkles inside to show the contrary.


Looking back I am really happy that I took this class. It was much more challenging than I expected but it was totally worth it. I gained so much real-world experience and things that I will put on my résumé`. I do wish we got to do things such as cook during class but I understand that we didn’t have all the necessary resources to do so. This class had a lot of aspects to it and sometimes it felt to be a little too much work. We had many different expectations that seemed to overlap each other. For instance, we had to read articles, chapters from books and watch long lectures, then blog about it, and finally we had to volunteer as much as we could. This got to be a little overwhelming at some points with the amount of other work from other classes. All in all it was a good course and I am glad I took it. It was challenging but there’s nothing wrong with a good challenge. I will recommend this elective to some of my friends because it is different and fun.


  • Food Desert Make blog post

  • Food art Make blog post

  • Volunteering blog post


Volunteering at the Pantry: Chicken Chili Day

A couple weeks ago I volunteered at the Ram Pantry from around     3-5 PM. Going in I didn’t know what we were making but I knew that we were making food samples. When I got there our group wanted to make sweet potato fries but there weren’t anymore sweet potatoes. So we had to think on our feet and create something with what we had. We had canned chicken (which is much more unappealing when seen/smelt up close), some fresh bell peppers, corn, and some spices. None of us really knew how it was going to turn out but we had to give it a shot.

I was in charge of cutting up the peppers and also dealing with the canned chicken. We then put it all in a pot and let it cook for a little while. When it was done we were all pretty nervous to try it but we all did and it actually tasted good! It really goes to show that you can make some pretty decent food with the foods they provide there. After we put the chili into dixie cups we also added some crackers to it to give it that real chili look. It turned out to be a perfect day for chili because it was rainy and cold outside. We walked around near the pantry and gave people the sample and people seemed to enjoy it. I didn’t hear one bad review on it. All in all it was a good day and it was fun to put something new together. Even the people that were working at the pantry were surprised that we made it taste that good! Hopefully some of the people who ate it tried to make it themselves.


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Make #8 – Interview

My friend Corinne agreed to be interviewed about her experience for the non-profit the Ronald McDonald House.

Q: What was your favorite thing about working for the non-profit Ronald McDonald?

A: I enjoyed giving back to these families.  Yes, a child is horribly affected by an illness, but that child’s family is affected by the illness too.  I felt like I was able to help these families feel more comfortable in their temporary home away from home.

Q: What was your least favorite thing about working for a non-profit?

A:  It would have to be how not efficient non-profits can run.  I know some things don’t go the way they are supposed to, but I wish there was more organization to some of these non-profits.

Q: What was your favorite thing you did at the Ronald McDonald house?

A: Cooking meals was my favorite thing I did.  I loved it, and I hope the families enjoyed my cooking as much I loved making the dishes.

Photo collage number 2

photovisi-download  After doing the ‘trial run’ creating this version was easier and less hesitant. Digging up these photos really makes me think and reflect on what i’ve learned this semester. Certainly reinstates the importance of teamwork.



Food Bin

bin idea   For the Bin Idea I came up with the idea of painting grapes ‘spewing’ over/out of the bin– in a downward motion…. a long with that Aster and I thought to include fruits and vegetables with happy faces on the ‘body’ of the bin.

Make #5

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( Peanut Butter Play Dough)

1 cup of smooth peanut butter (we used the regular with sugar kind as it came in our welcome basket when we arrived to Kuwait)
1 1/2 – 2 cups of cornstarch (or corn flour here and in other parts of the world)
Start by combining the peanut butter and 1 cup of the cornstarch in a large bowl (we found that using the back of a metal spoon worked well). Once combined, slowly begin adding the additional cornstarch. Mix in between additions and stop when the dough is still soft, but firm to the touch and no longer sticky. As you go, you may need to use your hands to knead the dough. Our perfect amount was 1 3/4 cups of corn flour, but it may vary a little depending on the type of peanut butter you’re using.