Author Archives: Bonnie Boaz

About Bonnie Boaz

I have been teaching for over 20 years, and after all this time, I would say that teaching is one of my superpowers. I taught at Syracuse University for seven years way back when (okay you were likely a baby then) and I've taught at VCU for 12 years. I've been teaching in University College for the last 8 years, and currently teach Univ 112, Univ 200, Univ 211, and Honors 200. I think VCU students are the best around: you are smart, open-minded, and creative. It's a privilege to share the classroom with all of you!

Email from Terrence Walker, Nov 24, 2014.  Let’s discuss this problems given our visit with Erin Burke and the mid-term reading “The Four Furies.”

We ran into a few problems with getting the bins painted by students in your class.
First, the cost of supplies went over the $25 budget that the SGA approved. (unfortunately, the SGA did not tell us that the budget was only $25 when we asked for funding).
And the manager of the BCM, where Rampantry is located said that your students could paint the bins near the back entrance of the building and use the kitchen space.
However, he informed us on Sunday that the BCM is having a Thanksgiving day event on Tue. and they will be using the kitchen/back area to prepare for the event, so
we will not be able to use the area during your classroom time.
Sorry for any confusion this may have caused your students. This is not the first time that we have run into issues with SGA funding and the use of the building where
Rampantry is located.
I will look into other options to get the bins painted or revisit the issue next semester.
A Big Thanks to your students for all that they have done this semester to make Rampantry successful!

Food desert videos for class

If you missed class on TH Nov 6, these are the videos we watched.  Please watch these before you complete your Make #3: Food desert infographic.

Ron Finley:

Jamie Oliver:


Googled: Google Maps Creighton Court

6 Courts in Richmond

Above photo: ReEstablish Richmond Fundraiser at Bakers Crust

How can we make these eye-catching and all about FOOD donations!?



MAKES were to be submitted in hard copies.  I received 11 Mid-term submissions.  Please bring a hard copy to class on TH if you mistakenly thought you could post your MAKE in your blog only.

All MAKES not submitted on TH OCT 30 will not be accepted.  Also, those who did not complete self-assessments on the day Mid-term #1 was due, please see me in class to complete a self-assessment, as this is part of your mid-term exam grade (Part ! Essay, Part 2 MAKES, plus self-assessment).

As you noticed in class, there was a lot of overlap in your MAKE ideas, which kind of caused the reciprocity ring idea to fall flat.  Most of your needs were the same, because most of your ideas were so similar.  The three broad categories of ideas were:

Makes involving recipes: : Ella, Tiarra, Serina, Aster

Makes that are food games:  Kyle, Ella, Tiarra, Elizabeth A,

Makes involving cooking and/or eating:  John, Tiarra, Serina, Aster, Alexandria, Emily

While I know you want to have fun, the purpose of the MAKES was to create mini-projects that can be documented in blog posts, shared among one another and groups, and have potential to be tweaked by every group for client needs.  (see assignment below)

I had a hard time figuring out how most of the MAKES above could be tweaked into serving client needs.  Cooking our favorite dishes and eating them, while lots of fun, requires time and money, both of which most of you say you are short of already, and which has impacted work with your clients.  Two groups are struggling to even get a “product” completed that addresses their clients’ needs, and the RamPantry group, in their mid-term reflections, have almost unanimously said they need fresh ideas to move outside the weekly sampling work.  The MAKES were your chance to brainstorm new ideas for DOING something that you could document and use to MAKE something for your clients. 

The MAKE ideas involving playing games together, cooking or eating together, and designing, exchanging, and making new recipes together would be great out-of class activities to do and document in your blogs.  Students in Food for Thought often cooked together, videoing their steps, taking photos to document their food.  But we cannot do this work in class.  Some of you admitted in  your mid-term that cooking wasn’t practical — raising concerns like the expense, the time constraints, the concern that if you cooked beforehand, how would you keep the food warm?  And finally, where would you cook if we cooked during class?  Our class has lots of gadgets, but none of them are a stove! : )

The Food Game MAKES — we could develop a broad MAKE to find easy food games that the Peter Paul group could use to teach food issues to children.  The PP group would give us the perimeters of a good game — obviously cost is one.  So the idea of designing and researching food games for CHILDREN that can be used for the Peter Paul group, can definitely become a MAKE.  But playing food games in class together isn’t serving any real purpose for our service work.

Also, some MAKES were repeats of ideas your group has stated often, but still not completed.  MAKES were to be new ideas, not a repeat of the same ideas for doing something that you’ve stated before and still not done. : /   Guys:  DO what you set out to do as a group and stop writing about it. If you haven’t done it yet, maybe it’s a bad idea, OR  maybe you just need to stop waiting for someone else to act and just do it.

If your MAKE doesn’t involve envisioning a way to use the MAKE to serve our client needs, then your Mid-term essay falls short of the assignment.


  • Mid-term Part #2: A 3 – 4 page paper (which I agreed could be 2 pages if it is awesome) that develops descriptive, creative ideas for two possible MAKES. By calling them “MAKES” I am emphasizing DOING and CREATING: mini-projects that can be documented in blog posts, shared among one another and groups, and have potential to be tweaked by every group for client needs. We will dedicate at least one class (maybe two if it’s an ambitious) each week to working ON the MAKES. So this is your chance to dream big for the best use of our class time to 1) create products for our clients and 2) showcase work and creativity in your blogs.
  • Your make ideas can be a little rambling (like mine is) because you are thinking on paper, and because creativity isn’t always perfectly linear. But we should be able to see clear creative POTENTIAL in your MAKE ideas, as well as genuine enthusiasm on your part about your ideas.



Is Fast Food Even FOOD? Taking Pollan’s Journey

See Daily Assignments for your Blog Assignment due Th 10/23.  Just as Pollan traced back his McDonald’s meal back to all of its ingredients, decide on your favorite fast food, then find a list of the ingredients in the food. (Use a Google Search, and do not use the fast food company website unless they include ALL ingredients).   List the ingredients, then trace ALL the unknown ingredients back to their original “food” source.  Include at least one image and several links to the sources that provided you information in tracing back your meal.

As a partial model, let’s say I chose the Chik Fil A Spicy Chicken Biscuit, pictured here::

chic bisc1Chik Fil A Spicy Chicken Biscuit

A quick Google search, and I find a full list of the ingredients, which I list, and then begin to laboriously decipher the origins of many of them by doing new Google searches:


Biscuit (enriched bleached wheat flour [niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid]  What is Thiamine mononitrate?  From Wikipedia:  “Though thiamine is found naturally in foods, thiamine mononitrate is not. Thiamine mononitrate is synthesized by removing a chloride ion from thiamin hydrochloride and mixing the final product with nitric acid.”  At first I didn’t question “enriched bleached flour” because I’ve used it for years.  But on looking at it I found that when milling wheat, it is not naturally white. Wikipedia, again:  ” In order to give flour a white color, it goes through a bleaching process that involves use of a chemical, such as benzoyl peroxide, to oxidize the flour. It would take weeks to do this naturally by letting air oxidize the flour. Some common bleaching agents are benzoyl peroxide and chlorine gas.”  omg.  The truth about bleached flour is that it is REALLY BLEACHED with bleaching agents.  See source here: 3283

vegetable oil shortening [palm and/or palm kernel oils] Interesting they aren’t clear which one. I found that palm kernel oil, coconut oil, and palm oil are three of the few highly saturated vegetable fats. Wikipedia: “Palm kernel oil, which is semi-solid at room temperature, is more saturated than palm oil and comparable to coconut oil. It is commonly used in commercial cooking because of its relatively low cost, and because it remains stable at high cooking temperatures and can be stored longer than other vegetable oils.”

sugar  (REAL!) sugar.  3rd ingredient in a biscuit?

salt  Easy enough. 

maltodextrin:   it’s a polysaccharide that is used as a food additive.  After reading further down into the Wikipedia entry I saw this: “Maltodextrin can be enzymatically derived from any starch. In the US, this starch is usually corn.”   So here’s the first corn in the biscuit.

… and I would continue with the list of ingredients, looking up all ingredients I didn’t know, and adding the information about where each ingredient came from.

The rest of the ingredients in Spicy Chicken Biscuit?  Kind of scary.  Count ’em:

cultured nonfat milk, leavening [sodium bicarbonate, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate], whey, natural flavor, dextrose, water, self-rising flour [enriched bleached flour {wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid}, baking powder {baking soda, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate}, salt]), butter oil (soybean oil, palm kernel oil, soy lecithin, artificial flavor, TBHQ and citric acid added as preservatives, and artificial color), chicken (whole breast filet, seasoning [salt, monosodium glutamate, sugar, spices, paprika], seasoned coater [enriched bleached wheat flour {with malted barley flour, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid}, sugar, salt, monosodium glutamate, nonfat milk, leavening {baking soda, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate}, spice, soybean oil, color {paprika}], milk wash [water, nonfat milk, egg], peanut oil [fully refined peanut oil, with Dimethylpolysiloxane, an anti-foam agent added]peanut oil [fully refined peanut oil, with Dimethylpolysiloxane, an anti-foam agent added]).


Notes from Erin Burke Brown’s Class Presentation on Tu 10/14

Thank you to Tori for taking these extensive notes.

For the ReEstablish Richmond group:  these are important to at least look over.  For your mid-term essay, EVERYONE IN CLASS should read Mill’s essay called “The Four Furies: Primary Tensions Between Service Learners and Host Agencies,” which is linked to in the Daily Assignments and can also be found under the Readings heading on our blog site.  Mills discusses some of the issues Ms. Brown touched on in our class presentation.  The ReEstablish Group can rely solely on Mill’s ideas for your reflection, since you were not able to hear Ms. Brown’s presentation.

10/14/14:  Notes on Erin Burke Brown:  Class Speaker

Division of Community of Engagement

Erin Brown3400 Students took Service Learning Classes last year!

Things aren’t going the way you thought that it would? It becomes MESSY!  This is normal in service learning classes, and it is normal in real world jobs.

Not everything will go as planned…always remember that!

What is Service Learning?

Credit Bearing educational experience where students participate in organized service that meets the community’s needs. Students must reflect on service and increase the application of the course.  Your class was clearly already doing all of the components of the best service learning courses — working with nonprofit clients: Rampantry, ReEstablish Richmond, or Peter, Paul Development Center and reflecting on this experience in your blogs and exam papers.

Why Service Learning?

Service————————————–Service Learning————————————-Internship

  • Hands on Experience
  • Active Learning
  • Puts students in touch with the real world
  • All good learning doesn’t happen inside a classroom.
  • Beneficial to not only the Student, but the Community.
  • Free Labor for client
  • Experience/skill development for student resumes and interviewing for jobs
  • Connecting Theory and Content of the course with real world problems

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

-Ben Franklin

Service Learning is always messy!  Why is it Messy?

  • Never set in stone-things come up, people change their mind.
  • Working with others-people or clients.
  • Different Intentions-Lots of Stakeholders
  • Different Management
  • Scheduling Conflicts
  • Communication (Lack of)
  • Funding
  • Priorities are all different

What are the obstacles for Students, Instructors, Community, VCU?

  • Students:
    • Not enough free time
    • Not enough guidance
    • Funds and Transportation
    • Communication issues with clients
  • Instructors:
    • Hard to implement direct curriculum
    • No clear guide
    • Unequal course load
    • Finding Organizations that are willing to work with schedules
  • Community Partners:
    • Trust the Students
    • Location Problems
    • Might think it is a waste of time
    • Goals/Objectives- Different
    • Lack of Interest
  • VCU:
    • Hard to initiate student involvement
    • Safety of Students
    • Organizations willing to work with students
    • Effectiveness of work on students (Beneficial?)
    • Reputation of School
    • Stressful Planning
    • Workload Equivalent
    • Grading Rubric
    • Partnerships with organizations
    • Credit Calculation
    • Supervision

“Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.”

-Marian Wright Edelman

Reflective Blog Guidelines

Writing a reflective blog

Your blog is a space for reflecting on your journey through this class. Your posts should reflect on lessons you have learned from your volunteer experience, what you have learned from the readings, what new perspectives and opinions you have about using digital media for food advocacy, and for thinking purposefully about ideas you have, roadblocks you encounter, confusions or frustrations you experience, intersections you are making between your work (both intersections between readings and food justice work with clients, or intersections between your LIFE or your other work in classes and what happens in this course).  Developing a reflective practice is important for articulating and making new knowledge.  Instead of spitting back information in a scan tron test, the blog asks you to creatively demonstrate, narrate and reflect on specific learning in the class.

Blogging serves the following purposes:

  • Communicates your thoughts about the course material and course experiences (for your instructor and other peer readers)
  • Provides regular feedback between you and the instructor.  If you are not voicing concerns in the blog, the instructor has no way to respond to these concerns.  If you are not voicing new ideas in the blog, then your group has no access to your new ideas (unless you remember to tell them about your ideas).
  • Serves as a platform for synthesis of new knowledge and ideas.  Learning happens when you make a connection between something you may have already known or recognized, and something new that happens to you, or that you read about or learn.  The blog is the place for you to synthesize new knowledge and make it visible for the reader.
  • Helps to develop and practice critical thinking.  You must critically think to reflect.  Otherwise you are just listing what you did.  “I went to ReEstabllish Richmond and researched the breakfast foods of the Burmese people. It was really interesting.” — This post is a statement summarizing what you did, but it does not demonstrate any critical thinking about the usefulness of this work, perceptions you gained from your research, conflicts you noticed between your work and your assumptions or other peoples’ assumptions, etc.  Critical thinking requires practice and thoughtfulness.
  • Helps to elicit new topics of interest; helps to challenge topics that need improvement, provides a space for safe, creative thinking.  You should dream big in your blog.
  • Helps to clarify troublesome issues.  The blog is your space to tease out what isn’t working, raise concerns, make plans for addressing those concerns, report on how the troubleshooting efforts were responded to by your group, agency, etc.

How do I write a good blog post?

A good post is personal, reflective, and substantive. Additionally, your reader must be understand clearly what you have written.

Steve Wheeler (2010), an associate professor at Plymouth University (U.K.), states that the following factors contribute to a good post:

  • Titles that are thoughtful and reflect irony, humor, or are “catchy” in some way.
  • Relevant, interesting content.  If you are writing about something you’ve read, choose the most controversial or troubling ideas to reflect on.
  • Engaged voice, and willingness to question and probe deeper.
  • Images to illustrate your views and inform your readers.
  • Hyperlinks that take readers deeper into the topic or discussion.
  • Humor, word play, or even satire to strengthen your post and entertain your readers.

Generally, you should blog at least once a week if you have no other course readings on which to blog. Here are some guiding questions to think about when writing your post if you are at a loss for what to blog about:

  • What have you learned this week through course readings, class discussions, group work or client work?
  • What are you most excited about?  What do you wish you could do in this course that we haven’t done yet?  What do you wish you could do for your client but can’t figure out how to do it?
  • How can the week’s activities or this week’s group work be strengthened?
  • What new insights and problem solving strategies did I realize during discussions or while working with others?
  • What would you like to read about or learn more about?
  • What new ideas have you explored that you could bring to your group?
  • What is my group struggling with, and what role have you played in this struggle?  What trouble-shooting ideas can you bring to the table?
  • Where can you take the lead in something?


The following are examples of reflective blog posts from Food for Thought, 2013. They are substantive, clearly written and demonstrate personal reflection:   OR

DC Central Kitchen Opportunity

Funding has been approved from the Commons to send a group by bus to tour the DC Central Kitchen , a well-know nonprofit agency there,

There is room for 10 to 12, with first preference going to the officers of Ram Pantry and the advisors, and then to any trained student volunteers. The date is Thursday, October 16th, and the times are from 8 am to about 5 or 6 pm.

Any Rampantry group members with training are eligible to go.  Please email me if interested and we can discuss extra credit opportunities.

The debate about home-cooked family dinners is happening right now     Rampages link   PP group



The Family Dinner Debate!

Guys: this article (live link above) and the SLATE article it references (and links to) IS EXACTLY WHAT WE WERE TALKING ABOUT IN CLASS on THURSDAY: the idealized family dinner.

Don’t you love when this happens??!!

Here’s the original article:


ON YOUR DASHBOARD, YOU’LL SEE A LINK TO VIDEO TUTORIALS.  These are short and quick and worth your time to explore!

Screen Shot 2014-09-07 at 5.05.20 PM

How to change your site visibility so that your blog can appear here!

We suspect that 90% of the problems with getting your blogs to appear in our rss feed on our class blog,  is that you have your site visibility set to private.  You will need to change this setting if you want your blog rss feed listed on our class blog homepage..  Note:  If you wish to keep your blog setting set to private, please email me.

I will email and post instructions for how to make a single post private (because in some cases you may choose to keep a particular post private).  A post can be set to private even if your site visibility is public.  To change site visibility:

1)  In Dashboard, black column on left of screen, go down to SETTINGS, and as you scroll over the word settings, you’ll see another menu appear.

2)  Click READING on that menu under SETTINGS.

3)  Then scroll down to SITE VISIBILITY.

4)  You must click the circle next to “Allow search engines to index this site” — the first option.

5)  Then click SAVE CHANGES.  Once you’ve saved changes, look to the search box at the top, where you should see a green line inside the search box beside the words “Settings Changed.”

Once you’ve done this, I will be able to go back and add the rss feed.

6)  Please ADD your name or blog avatar name AND your blog URL AS A COMMENT ON this POST if you have taken the above steps so that I can go back and try again to syndicate your blog. (Click “leave a reply” and give me your name and blog url so that I can add it to our syndication).

Reminder:  While most of you used your name or part of it in your blog site title, you don’t have to name yourself on your blog, but instead you can use an avatar (if you want to remain anonymous).  Remember my example of Anonymous Octopus’ blog name?


HOW TO TAG POSTS, and other tutorials:

Our Three Clients — Know them well!

Here are the notes I took from my preliminary meetings with all of our clients.  Every client is very OPEN to any ideas you may bring to the table.  Please review every website and social media site these clients have so that you can make a decision about which client you wish to work with.


Peter, Paul Development Center

Contact:  Rosemary Jones at or 804-780-1195

Food distribution:  1st and 3rd Wed of the month.  8:00 truck arrives. Unload truck.  Walk people through distribution center as they pick up food.

Community Garden:  Currently just one man, a grandfather of one of the students, works this garden.  He would love to have help IN the garden — weeding, watering, etc.

Food drives:  They always need canned foods.  Setting up and running canned food drives badly needed.

Garden Mentor & Food Teaching:  Hang out in the children’s garden with the children.  Plan, prepare and deliver food related lessons to the children.  They have a kitchen on site.  Teaching children how to prepare a healthy snack or meal is an option.

Senior Citizens:  The seniors meet Tu and Th 10 – 1:00, with education component around noon.  The center is open to any food education, cooking, or food discussions with the seniors.



The RamPantry:

Contact:  Terrence Walker

Recipes and Cooking videos using pantry ingredients:  Last year students made basic how-to cooking videos that Terrence was interested in posting on Facebook page.  See examples here.

Creation, maintenance, and promotion of social media sites are badly needed.  Twitter site in name only.  No Instagram site.  No Tumblr.  Working Facebook site that one student has been assigned to.

Outreach Committee and Special Events Committee:  They need a street team to get the word out about the pantry, and to go to events, take pictures, and upload them to social media.  There is a lot of misinformation about the pantry.  Media that educates the public about food insecurity is badly needed.

Volunteer in the Pantry:  Open on Wed 11 -5.

Food distribution:  Need help picking up food at N Parham Road 1 x a month.  They also do a Panera run 1x a month too.

All students in this committee must attend a volunteer training session.  Contact students below for training time options.

Taylor Thompson, Rampantry President,
Holly Whitt, Rampantry Volunteer Coordinator,



ReEstablish Richmond

Contact:  Kimberly Compton  Email:

Volunteer in Garden:  They have monthly workdays, which you can find out about it when you sign up on the site to get their newsletter.

Work directly with Refugees:  Discuss this with Kimberly, who hopes to have you do some writing  that will feature the refugees and their personal struggles.

Blog Contributions:  Work with Kimberly to develop and write some posts for their blog.

Social Media:  Ideas for developing other social media sites to promote the work of ReEstablish Richmond are welcome!

Last year’s blogs: