Author Archives: Aster Bagtas

Final Reflective Essay

Note: links are in orange.

Throughout the entire semester in our Food for Thought class, my group and I worked with a nonprofit organization called Peter Paul Development Center, which is located toward the East End of Church Hill. We had many ideas for what we could do to help Peter Paul after our first meeting with them. Most of the ideas we had involved working with the kids at Peter Paul and possibly working with helping them with their social media. Peter Paul has a monthly newsletter that anyone can sign up for through email, but their website and their Twitter doesn’t get too much traffic. They also don’t post too often on Facebook. We thought that social media would be a powerful tool with increasing awareness about Peter Paul. I also was very excited to help them with this because of the fact that I am a graphic designer and I work a lot with visual communication. Despite our many ideas with work, we did run into many obstacles and struggles while working with them with these issues. Rosemary had several restrictions on what we could do with the kids and at Peter Paul in general. She mentioned that we weren’t allowed to take images of anything that we did there unless we had her permission first. We also couldn’t take pictures of the children. Our biggest challenge this whole semester was figuring out how we can work around these issues and still help Peter Paul by tending to their needs as an organization.

One of the things that we were able to do was help with Food Distribution that happens every 1st and 3rd Wednesday. I was able to attend one Wednesday because my class was cancelled on that day. Instead of staying at home, I took that opportunity to help out with the rest of the volunteers at the Food Distribution in the morning. If you click here, you can read about my observations and experiences at my first time helping out at the distribution. After participating with carrying the produce, meat and bread from the truck, I was able to figure out how I would design a project relating to the food distribution that could be useful for Peter Paul. Laura had a wonderful idea of creating small recipe cards to make for the people who stop by at the food distributions. As a group, we compiled several easy and simple recipes that included most of the foods that were usually found at the distribution. That way, it would be easier for them to make these recipes at home since they’ll have most or all of the ingredients. We wanted to increase their interests with the healthier foods because we thought that they had way too many desserts and not enough healthy food. The recipe cards might be a solution to that problem. My recipe card designs are here. Not a lot of people are knowledgeable about the unhealthy ingredients that can be found in most packaged food products and store bought desserts. Having recipe cards with easy and simple recipes involving healthy ingredients would draw their attention toward the more healthier foods. Being at the food distribution also made me think more about the reading we had about Lunchables. It really opened my eyes to what is really in our food, especially the ones that are being sold commercially in grocery stores. Most of the foods that were donated to the distributions were from big brand grocery stores like Sam’s Club and Kroger. A majority of them were packaged and highly processed. However,  they were able to get a few fresh produce, but some people turned away from them. In my opinion, the recipe cards were a good example of food advocacy because it is a small way of showing people the potential that healthy foods have. Some people are afraid to touch produce because most of them don’t know how to prepare them properly or think they don’t taste good. But I do think that handing out recipe cards are a great start to solving that problem at the food distribution. Adrienne Cole, the volunteer services director also loved them and said that she would even keep some for herself.

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Prototypes of recipe cards that I designed for Peter Paul’s distribution.

As the semester progressed, I felt like I was able to use my creative skills to my advantage when trying to help our client. Being a graphic designer definitely helps with solving visual problems and also with spreading messages to others in a beautiful and understandable way. I tried to implement that in my work for this class throughout the semester. One of my interests includes food photography and creating videos. I have spent a great deal of my time studying food styling and food photography. In my opinion, beautiful food photography is another great example of food advocacy. In some aspects, it can help teach others more about food, bring more attention to healthier foods, and teach others to try new recipes and taste new things. Here is an example of some of my food photography of vegetables that my parents grow in our backyard garden. This can help draw more attention to healthier foods and eating locally if one were to view these images on social media or on posters. Speaking of social media, I also thought that the Recipe Video “make” that I created for this class complements the food photography as far as food advocacy goes. It’s easy and simple, and anyone can make it. I thought that this video would be useful for Peter Paul because they also receive tons of bread at the food distributions. For this recipe ricotta cheese can be replaced with cottage cheese or cream cheese, lemon zest can be replaced with lemon juice, and the bread doesn’t even have to be toasted if one doesn’t have a toaster. I still believe that this is a useful recipe that the people at the food distributions can grab inspiration from, or make for themselves. You don’t have to follow the recipe ingredient by ingredient. It definitely gives room for the viewer to be creative themselves. I think that is important when it comes to food advocacy; give them a chance to be more creative with their food. The more engaged a person is with their food, the more they are interested in the food. I also found my Food Art “make” to be very useful not only for my group Peter Paul, but also for Rampantry’s group. I saw that most of my images and food art creations made it to Rampantry’s Instagram.


An example of my food photography featuring healthy, homegrown vegetables from my parents’ garden.

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Screenshot of my recipe video “How to Make Strawberry Ricotta Crostini.”


My handlettering for the front of the recycling bin.


Food illustrations done by my sister. These were meant to be painted all over the bin.

Toward the end of the semester, we had the opportunity to help with Rampantry donations by painting recycling bins that were going to be used to collect all of the donations. Me, Laura, and Elizabeth worked together with Terrence on figuring out supplies to execute the design we had for the bin. Go here to read about our initial project ideas for the bins. We were very excited about painting, and I even asked my sister Lianna to help create some illustrations to paint.


One of the kids’ work of art for “Trees in a Brocolli Forest” activity.


Preparing the vegetables for the activity.

We did however, encounter a few bumps in the road with this process. You can read about what happened here. Unfortunately, budget and location problems led this project to become cancelled. It was a very frustrating outcome, but at least we did our best to help. Because of the let down from the recycling bins, my group and I were thinking of plans on what food activity to do with the kids at Peter Paul. If you go here, you can read about our initial ideas on healthy food-related activities that would be great for the kids. Here is the confirmation email that we got back from Peter Paul after we decided to do “Trees in a Broccoli Forest.” We ended up holding the activity on Thursday, December 4th at Peter Paul. We had two groups: 2nd graders and 3rd graders. The kids seemed to really enjoy the project and even ate most of the vegetables that we provided for them. After having so many failed attempts with projects for Peter Paul, I was really proud of my group for sticking through it all and finally being able to accomplish an activity with the kids at the end of the semester.

I learned quite a bit from this class throughout the semester. From the food distributions, to the makes, to volunteering, I was able to learn more about food and how it can impact us as individuals and as a community. It was a lot of hard work and took a lot of perseverance, but I felt that my group and I were able to accomplish a lot despite it all. I also learned a lot about the ins and outs of the food industry and because of that, I now have an entirely different perspective on food. I feel like I learned a lot of valuable lessons while working in this class, and it’ll definitely help me when I finally join the workforce after graduation.

Broccoli Forest Activity at Peter Paul

On Thursday, December 4th, me, Keondra and Laura went to Peter Paul to do the “Trees in a Broccoli Forest” food activity with the kids after school. We got there around 4:30pm and met with Rosemary at the entrance where she said that we can sit with the children at the cafeteria while they had their lunches. They were having stir fry Chinese takeout, and they were served in the cute takeout boxes. After the kids were finished with their lunches, we started preparing the ingredients to make the activity. I brought grape tomatoes, Laura brought broccoli florets and Keondra brought carrot sticks and ranch. We made an example plate so the kids can use that as a reference. As we were preparing, Ardilla, the garden lady from Peter Paul was teaching the children about the vitamins that can be found in each vegetable and explained to them the difference between a fruit and a vegetable. We cut up all different kinds of vegetables and set them on each table so that the kids can grab as much as they need to make the example. Our first group were the 2nd graders. They were very energetic and a little crazy at times, especially seeing food. They kept asking if they could eat it immediately. Laura first explained to them on what we have to do for the activity before letting the kids start their own. They seemed very excited and happy to be starting a food art activity. Our first method with the 2nd graders was to set out plates of carrots, brocolli, and tomatoes so that they can grab as much as they need. However, we weren’t prepared for the second graders to go too crazy with their portions. Most of them just wanted to make pictures and grabbed way more than they needed. It was a bit hard to calm them down and explain to them that they needed to save some for the others. Our next group was 3rd graders. They were a lot easier to handle than the 2nd graders. They were very polite, raised their hand if they needed something, and answered Ardilla’s questions about the fruits and vegetables. I thought it was sweet because one of the 3rd graders got so excited about the food art activity that she told Ardilla “this is the funnest day ever.” At least our activity brought them some happiness. Here are some pictures of what the kids made:

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Peter Paul Class Activity

Keondra emailed Peter Paul recently about confirmation on the class that we wanted to have with some of their students. Below is the email that she sent to them. Our idea was to do a food-related activity with the kids to help promote healthier eating. We are doing an activity that I did myself when I was in the 6th grade in my home economics class. It is called “Trees in a Brocolli Forest” which is basically an activity where the kids create a scenery of “trees” out of brocolli, carrot sticks, ranch dressing on the bottom and grape or cherry tomatoes. We thought that this would be the best activity for us to conduct with the class as it is easy and cost effective. I also thought that it would be a fun and delicious activity for the kids to do at Peter Paul. I remember enjoying it myself when my 6th grade teacher introduced this activity to us. We are planning on finally going to Peter Paul on Thursday, December 4th at 4pm to meet with a class of about 12 kids and doing the activity with them. I am hoping that it turns out good so we at least have some time with the children before the semester is over.


Recycling Bin Update

I got a call from Terrence on Sunday afternoon saying that he was not able to get the art supplies because the cost of the materials that we needed exceeded the $25 budget that the SGA gave him. I was extremely let down when I heard this because 1. we weren’t informed of the budget for the art supplies prior to even thinking about painting the recycling bins, and 2. we were told last minute. Terrence also mentioned that we weren’t allowed to paint in the area where they usually hold events for Rampantry because they were holding a Thanksgiving event on the day that we were meaning to paint. How come the SGA didn’t inform us of these any sooner? Why did they tell Terrence that we couldn’t paint in our designated area at the last minute? I would assume that the Thanksgiving event would have been planned way ahead of time, which means there shouldn’t be an excuse for them to suddenly tell us that we can’t paint there out of the blue. Unfortunately, because of this problems, Terrence decided to cancel the painting of the bins. I felt like we spent so much time thinking about how to design the bins, only to have it go down the drain at the last minute. This made all of us very upset and left confused on what we should do.

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Recycling Bins

My sister, myself, Elizabeth and Laura met together on Thursday, November 20th to plan out the list of needed art supplies to email to Terrence for the recycling bins.We decided to work on one bin for now to see how it would scope out as far as time is concerned. My sister Lianna drew out some fruits and vegetables that we would paint onto the bin. We planned on having the illustrations to look happy with smiles and have almost a “cartoony” aesthetic. My plan was to handletter “VCU RamPantry” on the front of the bin, and inside of the bin, we all talked about writing “Only Non-perishable items” so people who donate won’t include any perishable food items by accident. We hoped to paint the bins by Tuesday, November 25.

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“Make” Food Recipe Video

I decided to create a video for an easy recipe called “Strawberry Ricotta Crostini.” It uses everyday ingredients that you always have in your kitchen, such as strawberries, ricotta cheese (but if you can’t find ricotta, you can always use cottage cheese!), lemon, bread, butter, and honey! So fast and easy, yet healthy and delicious. I included snapshots of my video here, since the video file itself is too large to blog.

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Ideas for Children’s Lesson Plans for PP

Food Art or Healthy Recipe Activities:

  • Moon Phases with Oreos
  • Ants on a log
  • Trees in a broccoli forest

When I was in 6th grade we did a healthy food activity called “Trees in a Broccoli Forest” where we made “forests” with broccolis, carrots and cherry tomatoes. Ever since we did that activity, I’ve loved eating these vegetables. My teacher also used raw broccoli which is my favorite way to eat broccoli. It definitely has the most flavor and is the most nutritious when you just eat it the way it is. It looked like the picture below, but for the tree trunk, we used peeled carrots and for the sun we used cherry tomatoes. For the bottom, we used ranch dressing. It was really good, and I think this will be a very inexpensive and fun activity for the kids at Peter Paul.