Author Archives: maurerzs


Food for Thought. The name itself aspires to be an interesting class in my mind. When I first walked into class I was thinking it would be a simple, easy going class that discusses interesting questions of society. However, to my surprise it was a social service class. Not only that, but we moved from out small desk-filled classroom to a new one with all sorts of chairs and new technology. Of those new technologies we did use a few of them. We had blogs that made our ideas publicly known and worked as a place to store our assignments and discuss our experiences in class and out. We also used laptops, projectors, and desktops in the classroom in order to better present any new information we received over the semester. I was worried that I wouldn’t end up volunteering enough or that I wouldn’t like the place I volunteered at. Luckily there was a place right on campus within the three options. The RamPantry was a great place to volunteer. The staff was very nice and it was run by students for students, with the exception of Terrance. Terrance was very lenient and always wanted to go along with our ideas in hopes that his own project, the RamPantry, would grow into something that would help countless students.

The RamPantry group was composed of about 15 people, at first, and none of us knew one another. In fact, the group was so big people had to leave to go fill the Peter Paul and Reestablish Richmond groups. Soon we were discussing who would be doing what for the group, there was the social media team, the volunteering team, and a filler team to a little of everything. Now within these subgroups we split up in order to build team synergy. I was in a group with Tori, Ella, and Sabrina and while none of us knew exactly what we would be doing we took on the assignments happily and progressed into the semester soon to become the friendly group we ended up with. The little projects we did within the groups helped us connect with one another; Fears in a Hat, survival scenarios, charades, and going to Starbucks. These activities helped us get to know each other for when we would be working at the pantry together.


Once we had completed all the team-building activates we started to brainstorm ideas for what we could offer the pantry. We decided on making samples of different food options that could be made using ingredients from the pantry. The first week we made sautéed squash and zucchini. I had never tried zucchini before and our samples were very good. We handed the samples out to students and offered them printouts of the recipes if they were interested. We thought this was a useful idea for the pantry because they often times had particular foods that were not taken, while other types of food ran out. Our group decided the best way to get people to take the food that was less likely to be chosen was to offer interesting ways to cook them into meals that are both healthy and quick.

In class we did a lot of different things to learn about food advocacy. One of the activities was to go out and pick look at the ingredients used in commonly eaten food. We went during class and flocked to convenience stores then came back to class and discussed our findings. People chose everything from candy bars to ravioli. Each type of food seemed to be unhealthier than we had previously imagined. The ravioli was a tiny cup, contained two servings, and nearly had an entire day’s worth of sodium in it. Candy bars and sodas had more than a full day’s intake for sugar. Most of the foods that were brought up were things that I had eaten or do still eat. I never thought to check to see if it were unhealthy, because it was so quick and tastes great.



MAKEs were a big part of the last month of our class time. We spent many weeks discussing what we could do to make our organizations better known. While we had been using social media for this purpose, we didn’t seem to be attracting enough students. Our twitter, Instagram, and Facebook only had a few friends / followers. After midterm we discussed our ideas for different MAKEs that could be used with our pantries in order to spread the word to more people. We had a bunch of different ideas floating around and we ended up making memes, videos, infographics, collages, pictures, and all sorts of different interesting things that we hoped would attract more people to come to our pantry. As a member of the RamPantry we had to reach out to other students. On the other hand, the groups that worked with Peter Paul and Reestablish Richmond had to appeal to an older audience that were poor and lacked time and transportation. My group posted all those MAKEs to our different social media in an attempt for people to notice us at least a little more.



This class helped to open my eyes to different parts of our college that I would not have noticed had I not taken this class. I had never heard of the RamPantry before, and while I knew about pantries it was nice to learn more about the different people that need them and how they work. The students we interacted with were happy, not ashamed to be there and most of them enjoyed our cooking. In my previous Focused Inquiry classes we discusses food in depth and even discussed food deserts and why there is a need for pantries. However, this class helped to increase my knowledge of why these places exist and the kinds of people that need them, from the ones that work multiple jobs and still cannot afford to go grocery shopping to the people that live miles away from a grocery store and have no transportation to get there. In the beginning of the semester we had tons of readings and lectures and videos to watch and take notes on then reflect on with our own ideas. These taught me different reasons for the food being so unhealthy and expensive on some places. Through these teachings I learned new things about the lifecycles of the cows and chickens, not to mention the disgusting environments that they live in. Although there were hard times in this class where I felt I would never recover and be forced to withdraw, I had numerous unique experiences with my classmates and the RamPantry that no other class has to offer.


Team Building Exercise: Survival Scenario.

Survival Scenario – This exercise forces your group to communicate and agree to ensure their ‘survival.’ Tell your group that their airplane has just crashed in the ocean. There’s a desert island nearby, and there’s room on the lifeboat for every person – plus 12 items they’ll need to survive on the island. Instruct the team to choose which items they want to take. How do they decide? How do they rank or rate each item?

Ella: Water, Northface jacket, Chipotle, and Uggs.

Serina: Water filter, fully functional house, a boat, and her boyfriend.

Tori: Sunscreen, hair ties, toilet paper, and her boyfriend.

Me: Knife, boat, survival kit, and a bloody-faced volleyball named Willson.

Needless to say, we would not survive very well.

Team Building Exercise: Back-to-Back Drawing.

This activity was very interesting to learn everyone’s different views on certain images. The object of this activity was to have one person explain an image and the other group members must draw it how they believe it looks. Our images were very different from one another, some were rather well drawn, while others dwindled in the land of stick figures and smiley faces. It is always interesting to learn another person’s perspective on different topics, even if it is only Mini Mouse.

1. Back-to-Back Drawing – Divide your group into pairs, and have each pair sit on the floor back to back. Give one person in each pair a picture of a shape, and give the other person a pencil and pad of paper.Ask the people holding the pictures to give verbal instructions to their partners on how to draw the shape – without actually telling the partners what the shape is. After they’ve finished, ask each pair to compare their original shape with the actual drawing, and consider the following questions:

  • How well did the first person describe the shape?
  • How well did the second person interpret the instructions?
  • Were there problems with both the sending and receiving parts of the communication process?

Starbucks; The Team Building Activity.

My group, and I visited Starbucks to meet and socialize. We discussed many topics of interest to one another, our Food for Thought class being of the utmost importance. We enjoy this class and think it is an interesting take on the education system. We get to learn to work with businesses, social media, and just other students who we would otherwise never talk to. This experience has been great for bonding with one another.

Tori had a peppermint mocha frappe with no whip-cream. Serina had a cinnamon dolce latte. I had a caramel frapachino. Ella had a Cafe Americano. 


Today in class we met with the head of the RamPantry, Mr. Thompson. He was a nice, guy. While he was talking he had all these things to show us about the pantry. He explained where it was, what they did there and why they do it. The reasons for having a food pantry at a college is because some students are food insecure, or lack the income to be able to afford the expensive dining plans that the school offers. Those students can come to the pantry and are allowed to take home food for free. The pantry is a sort of charity for low income students and just happens to have taken a notice by other schools around the country. VCU was not the first university with a pantry but they do it so well that they receive calls from other universities asking how they did it.

Stigma was a big problem when the pantry started out. The school was happy that some of the students would receive help, but they did not like the negative stigma that the pantry presented about the college in general. They believe that it shows that the students that attend the school are poor, or that their meal plans are too expensive (they are, but that’s another topic). Thus the RamPantry had to come up with new innovative ways to educate the student body about their presence in the university and help spread the word through social media. Social media has helped spread the word about the pantry very well and many students benefit from it every week.

The pantry is only open on Wednesdays from 11 A.M. to 5 P.M.. Usually the food is not all used, there are specific types of food that are still there at the end of each Wednesday. These are usually things that students don’t know how to cook, or don’t even know recipes to make from it; pinto beans, raisins, etc… However, the pantry does help over 100 students a week, and has only been around for a a year now. This is an excellent place for students who are struggling to eat enough food during the week.

Animal Charades


My group played charades as a team building activity. We chose to act out animals that the other members would have to guess without verbal clues. Ella was a cheetah, I was a giraffe, Sabrina was a rabbit, and Tori was a bird.

Fears in a Hat

My group played the game, fears in a hat and discovered a few new things about each other. We found out that Serina is scared of bees because she does not know whether she will have an allergic reaction to a sting. Ella is afraid of walls closing in on her, and drowning. Tori is afraid of spiders and explained a wonderful story about how you can be bitten by a spider and it actually lays eggs inside your skin which will eventually burst and little tiny spiders will come crawling out of your skin. After discussing our fears we had come to a common conclusion that if presented with these fears we would go to our “happy place” and try to not freak out. Some of these, however, are a  bit more serious and may require medical attention. Some of the situations we are able to walk away from, or just avoid as a whole.

Team-building Exercises

Back-to-back drawing

Supplies: Paper and pencils.

Divide the group into pairs and sit with each other back-to-back so that you cannot see one another. One person will have a piece of paper with an image on it, something simple like a shape or an animal. The other person will have a blank piece of paper and a pencil. The first person will describe their image without saying what it actually is. The second person’s job is to try to draw the object being described. This activity builds trust, communication, and allows the teams to work together to accomplish a common goal.

Mine Field

Supplies: An open field or room. Objects such as chairs or tables. Blindfold.

To begin this activity you must space out the objects around the room or field, but allow space for a person to walk in between them. Split up the group into pairs, choose people who usually do not see eye to eye. Then put a blindfold on one of the partners. That is the person who will be walking through the mine field. The second person will be the adviser and will stand on the outside of the field and try to guide the blindfolded person through the mine field using verbal communication. This activity builds trust among the partners and establishes a common goal of getting through alive (without hitting anything).

Bridge Building

Supplies: Stick pretzels of different sizes. Marshmallows of different sizes. Gram crackers of different sizes. Two tables per team.

In this activity you will form groups in order to build a bridge using these food materials. First spread the tables apart exactly a foot. The group’s goal is to create a bridge that stands freely between the two tables. Each group will be provided a bag of different assortments of pretzels, marshmallows, and gram crackers. These will be your construction supplies. This activity teaches members to work together and accomplish a common goal. It also improves communication and trust among group members.

Introduction to Industrialization of Food Systems

This was an interesting perspective into the making of different foods among the food industry. Industrialization was a big part to the food industry that helped bring us to the types of food that we eat now. This kind of approach has been brought by different innovations in machines, chemicals, and tending of land and animals. Most farmers specialize what types of crops or animals they grow, or tend to. Different crops grow differently in the land and if you have one that sprouts weeks before another that is planted directly beside each other then you have a problem when it comes time to gather all your crops. News types of machines have been added to the food industry to properly grow more crops and raise better animals. Among the food industry they strive for standardization, which is a way that each type of food is prepared mostly alike, thus when you see two different types of corn in the grocery store they both look mostly alike, but taste slightly different. Different innovations in technology allow for beefier cows, corn that survive bugs and parasites, and much more that give us the food we eat. As companies grow larger they require more farmland from which they can get food. With all the chemicals that go into making the food, the earth that grows it slowly decays into a lifelessness that can no longer grow food sufficiently.

You Will Eat All of That!

This article talks very seriously about how devastating the effects of forcing your child to eat food that they do not like actually may be. This includes how parents like to scrutinize different foods, and condemn their child from eating some while forcing them to eat those in which they do not like. This means that they are likely to form eating disorders during their life that may be serious enough to create health disorders that cause physical health problems like high blood pressure or heart disease. These effects are very serious and caused by the most innocent of acts, like forcing a child to eat broccoli. When the children grow up they are no longer forced to eat these foods and associate them with negative feelings, thus they do not eat them. The healthy foods that are green tend to be the ones that children are forced to eat, making it very unlikely that they will continue to eat those healthy foods later in life.

Growing up, my parents didn’t make family meals very often as both of them worked full time. However, they did strive to eat at least one meal all together once a week. This meant that it was a big meal, usually with some kind of meat, and some sides. Steak, burgers, or salmon were all big favorites among my family, with corn, rice, or mac and cheese. However, my parents often wanted us to eat green beans, broccoli, and other healthy foods. My brothers and I didn’t enjoy eating these kinds of foods but couldn’t leave the table unless we finished them. We did end up eating them, begrudgingly, but we would never be happy to sit at the table and see something of the sort in front of us. This may have caused me to not enjoy this kind of food, but now i realize that without them your body does not act up to its full potential. Your body requires many vitamins and nutrients to function properly and if you deprive it of those necessities then it may fail you with the activities you want to do.