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Final Reflective Essay

When I first signed up for Food For Thought, I did not know what I was getting myself into. I expected it would be just another lecture class, however it was not. I thought we would just be learning about food and all aspects associated with it. I never thought we would be working with different non-profit organizations and integrating what we learned in class with the real life experiences we were gaining. After taking the class, it has made me open my eyes about the society we live in and our food production system. I have gained knowledge in regards to food advocacy, food injustice, social media and blogging, as well as experience with working with a non-profit organization.

There were a lot of aspects of our food system that I did not know about and learned in class. After reading the various articles assigned, I got a better sense of how our food system works and the accessibility of food. Learning about the ingredients in commonly known products, the chemicals used to enhance products, and how those products are created have definitely made me change my eating habits. The food system is all about making money and not keeping us healthy. Products are processed in the cheapest ways, altered in order to entice customers whether it is good for one or not, and sold to have maximum shelf life

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This blog post goes into more detail about how food is altered for the consumer.

The accessibility of obtaining healthy and fresh foods is also an issue within our food system. There is a lack of resources in some areas than others. In class, we created infographs about food deserts in the Richmond community. This task allowed us to get creative while making something useful for the community. I never realized the extent of how disgusting our food industry is and the public needs to be better educated about it.

Below is one of the infographs I created about food deserts. This particular infograph is centered around the accessibility of food within Richmond. I used one of ReEstablish Richmond’s neighborhood communities to figure out the distance to the closet grocery store.

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Throughout the semester, we focused heavily on the use of social media. We all created personal food blogs to share and reflect what we learned thought the course of the semester. I enjoyed writing my thoughts and posting what I thought about certain topics on my blog. It allowed me to be creative with very little restrictions. Also, we presented on different social media platforms, which helped everyone, gain knowledge on different forms of social media. We looked at how different platforms can be used to promote food advocacy. My partner and I completed our Points of Participation Project on Facebook. We highlighted the pros and cons of using the website and how non-profit organizations use it to get their message out. As of class, we had many discussions about social media and the importance of using it. Social media can be used to get anything promoted or announced and can be conveyed across a large audience. We all incorporated the use of social media platforms when working with our clients.

The link to my blog is my Point of Participation assignment on Facebook:

We had the choice to work with three different non-profit organizations promoting food advocacy, Ram Pantry, Peter Paul Developmental Center, and ReEstablish Richmond. I had the opportunity to work with four other individuals for an organization called ReEstablish Richmond. ReEstablish Richmond works to help refugees fleeing from other countries get established in the Richmond community. The organization provides various programs and services for the refugees such as nutrition classes, driving classes and bus navigation, housing, job preparation, and education classes.

In the beginning of the semester, we met with Kimberly, the director of ReEstablish Richmond, and she informed us our starting tasks. We would be helping with workshops for the refugees as well as interviewing the refugees and developing narratives based off of the discussions. Weeks passed and we were informed that the workshops would no longer be happening. We were all extremely frustrated and decided to brainstorm new ideas to present to the organization. However, Kimberly informed us of a fundraiser that would be coming up in the next couple weeks. We created different forms of advertisements and marketing materials in order to get the word out. We developed a Facebook event page, flyer, and handouts for the tables at the restaurant.

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I was very apprehensive leading up to the Bakers Crust fundraiser. It was difficult for me to think we would have to promote and ask other people to support an organization that I had very little contact with. We never met any of the refugees nor did we even go to the office to see the operation in depth. Even if I did not have the opportunity to meet any of the refugees, I would of liked to see the office to get a better idea of the organization than from what we were just told. Even though I feel like my group did not contribute to the organization to our fullest capacity, I still think we finished strong and pushed through for the Bakers Crust fundraiser. The event was successful and the organization received over $300. Our hard work and preparation towards the event outshined all of the obstacles we faced throughout the semester.

The links below to my food blog go into more detail about my experiences with ReEstablish Richmond.

Client Meeting:



Bakers Crust Fundraiser:

We faced many challenges throughout the process of working with the organization. Time, monetary funds, lack of planning, and the lack of trust from our client were all issues we encountered as a group. Running into “road blocks” is only normal and likely to occur, especially when working with a client. Not everything happens as planned, however it is important to adjust in order to reach the ending result. My group did a great job of adapting to all of the changes we faced and it was an overall positive experience.


Make #5 – Food Activities for Kids

Banana Spiders – Simple, easy, affordable

What is Needed:

  • Pretzel sticks – for the legs
  • Banana (thick slices) or marshmallows – for the body
  • Raisins – for the eyes and nose
  • Coating (coco powder, cinnamon) – for the coating of the body

How To:

  1. Roll the banana into the coating. If using marshmallow instead, skip this step
  2. Arrange the pretzel legs into the body of the spider
  3. Add raisins for eyes and nose
  4. Eat!

Estimated Time: 10-15 minutes


Lesson about spiders — different parts of a spider, number of legs, their purpose

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Turkey Snack – Easy and festive for the holiday season

What is needed:

  • Clear plastic gloves
  • Popcorn, colored goldfish, pretzels, dry cereals, chex mix, nuts
  • Red and orange felt (optional)
  • Googly eyes (optional)
  • Markers (optional)
  • Glue (optional)
  • Scissors (optional)

How To:

  1. Fill each glove with any snacks of your preference
  2. Decorate the glove – Using the markers, draw the beak and eyes or cut and paste the felt on for the beak and glue on the googly eyes
  3. Enjoy!

Estimated Time: 5-10 minutes


Lesson about the history of Thanksgiving, helps with counting and sorting

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Make 1 – Food Art

Sesame Sticks — Pomegranate — Heirloom Tomatoes — Peanuts — Pistachios — Chilies

In class we worked on our first make, which was creating food art. The idea behind this was to create tasteful and visually appealing photos. Everyone had fun while using their creative sides to form the different foods into various shapes. I have seen a lot of food art on websites and social media so I was very excited to try it for myself! All of the pictures show detail and simplicity of the food creations.

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Food Makes

Food Boards 

My first idea is to create food boards for different cultures. Not only do I love trying new foods but for me, it is also about experiencing new cultures and ethnic cuisines. This idea could also tie into working with ReEstablish Richmond. The Bhutan, Iraqi, Afghani, Burmese, and Cuban are all cultures that the organization caters to. I would gather popular foods associated with each culture and then strategically place them in a given area. Depending on the photo, I would also group foods based on similarity, foods eaten in a certain time of day, or even foods eaten together. I would then place the items in way that is visually appealing to the eye. Afterwards, I would take photos of the area and then edit to my liking. Changing the filter, cropping, changing the exposure and saturation are all typical features that I would use to edit. Following the editing process, I would then share it to social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or even post it on the blog. By posting on social media, it allows for the general public to see what foods come from different cultures. The problems associated to this idea would include not being able to find specific popular foods from the cultures or even not having the proper equipment to get the perfect shot. I would love to incorporate this idea and post the photos on ReEstablish Richmond’s blog. It would be beneficial for the community to see what cultures the organization focuses on.

 Trying New Foods

My second idea is one that will involve the whole class. Since I love trying new foods, I think it would be fun for everyone to all make a list of 5 foods that they have not tried. Then the next class, everyone would bring in one item from the list. This way, some foods may be familiar and some may not. We would all share the foods and taste the ones that look appealing or that we have not tried. We would have an array of foods and hopefully some from different cultures as well. Since everyone will be bringing in a food that they haven’t tried, I can assume that there would be foods that certain individuals have already previously tried. However, we could run into the problems of people just sticking to those foods that they already are accustomed to and not branching out to new foods. Everyone would blog about their experience with trying the new foods and post photos of the foods that they tried. I think this would be a fun activity to do in class, it gives the opportunity to allow one to get out of their comfort zone by trying new foods they wouldn’t typically go for.


7-11 Slurpee Lite

List of Ingredients:

1. Water. This is an easy one, and it’s not surprising that it is the first ingredient, since I would expect that from a Slurpee.

2. Dextrin. A starch usually made from corn, potato, arrowroot, rice, or tapioca, this is typically used as an additive to hold ingredients together or as a thickening agent. Right off the bat, this makes you wonder what needs holding together.

3. Erythritol. While this sugar alcohol/sweetener does not provide as many calories as sugar because it is not completely absorbed into the body, a high intake of sugar alcohol in general has been found to cause gastrointestinal distress in many people.

4. Glycerin. This ingredient can be found in soap, but it’s used as a fat emulsifier, preservative, sweetener, or thickener in many manufactured foods.

5. Citric acid.  A “natural” preservative that’s used to add an acidic or sour taste to foods and soft drinks.

6. Potassium benzoate. A preservative that inhibits the growth of mold, yeast, and some bacteria.

7. Gum acacia. This is used as a stabilizer.

8. Quillaia extract. An absorbent substance/food additive used in baked goods, frozen dairy products, and puddings, and as a foaming agent in soft drinks.

9. Natural flavors. Don’t know what they are?

10. Sucralose. Aka. Splenda, one of the many ways of which they were able to decrease the calories from the original version.

11. Sugar extract. Form of sugar.

12. Glycerol ester of wood rosin. Yet another food additive used as an emulsifier and stabilizer.

13. Yellow 6. This commonly used food coloring is very controversial as to its relationship with increasing the risk of cancer.


Even though a Slurpee is not considered a food, it is something that I like to enjoy once in a while…especially on a hot day. I found it very difficult to find the ingredients in the regular Slurpee. The ingredients above are those found in the Slurpee Lite. However, one can assume that the regular Slurpee has similar ingredients but with a larger amount of sugar. The amount of crap in Slurpees is gross, considering you would usually think of the product as just ice and flavoring.


MidTerm Part I: Reflection

When I think of working within my community, I associate it with feeling a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. I feel as if I would be making a large difference in the community and helping others in need. Service learning is just that, its combines “real life” experiences within the community while reflecting upon it along the way. Working with ReEstablish Richmond has been a learning experience. Problems we have faced so far have been directly connected between my group and the agency. We have experienced issues regarding time and conflicting schedules, ideal expectations vs. realistic expectations, and our purpose within the organization.

Time and conflicting schedules has been a prevalent issue from the beginning. With establishing availability amongst group members, it was easily determined that all of us had very busy schedules. When we had our orientation with Kimberly, ReEstablish Richmond’s director, she informed us about how we would be benefiting the organization. We were told that we going participate in workshops catered towards the refugees as well as interviewing the refugees and develop narratives based off of the conversations. We learned different ways to deal with language barriers and brainstormed possible interview questions. We were prepared for the interviews and waited to hear for the workshop dates that had not been established yet. After two weeks of not hearing from Kimberly, we were informed that the interviews were not going to be conducted due to unforeseen circumstances. Not only was this upsetting it was also frustrating considering we had wasted time a large amount not being able to anything. In Steven Mills’ article “The Four Furies: Primary Tensions between Service-Learners and Host Agencies,” the criticisms related to time and scheduling on the student side were discussed. During studies conducted based off of student evaluation, it was determined that, “Other students were frustrated over the general time expectations of service-learning, and suggested considering individual student schedules and responsibilities when determining service-learning time requirements.” As college students, we are pulled in all different directions. Time constraints did not match up with Kimberly’s expectations nor did they coincide with our class assignments. We are expected to blog about our experiences on a regular basis but yet since we have not been given any further instruction it has been difficult to do so.

Typically when working in a service learning environment, there are different ideal and realistic expectations. When we first started out working for ReEstablish Richmond, we were all excited to directly interact and work with the refugees, participate in the workshops and interview those that were willing to share their story. However, now that we are in the middle of the semester and our objectives completely changed course, those original set goals are not so realistic anymore. According to a poll in relation to the tension between student emphasis on idealism vs. agency emphasis on realism “…students are often disappointed with the realities of agency work, and agencies have little time for student judgment easily interpreted as naïve presumption.” (Mills) We have had to adapt towards the new changes and keep an open mind while doing so. The complications we have encountered has made me question that maybe everything does happen for a reason and will hopefully get the opportunity to benefit the organization in a more substantial way.

Since having to adjust around the modifications, we now are left with feeling as if we have no significant purpose. This has resulted in feeling the tension of student emphasis on learning vs. agency emphasis on efficiency. One student stated, “…they simply wanted us there to be a few extra pairs of hands.” (Mills) I can relate to the student in which we have now been given small tasks that I personally feel will make minimal impact. As much as we are frustrated, I can assume Kimberly may be feeling the same way as well. Considering this is her first time working with service learning students, she told us that our group would be used for “trial and error.” She wanted to use our group to test and see what worked and what did not.

As a group, we have not experienced any issues regarding hours and commitment. Even though hours do tie into our personal schedules, we have not been asked to contribute an unrealistic amount of hours towards our service learning requirements. We are all hard working students that are willing to put in our personal time and effort. We want to impact this organization in a positive manor. Even though we have faced challenges along the way, it has not prevented us from being committed to the organization. “I’m not concerned with how many hours they put into it…I want them to be committed to doing it, and if it takes more hours, then that’s good…I don’t mid asking them to do more hours.” (Mills) For me, its not about how many hours I put into the organization but rather than what I actually achieve.

One of the most important lessons I have been able to take away from working with a client is the fact that things do not necessarily go as planned. Plans are changing, new ideas are presented, and obstacles may arise. It has taught me to properly handle “real-life” situations and to adapt in order to succeed.

Up until this point, we have not presented any ideas to our client. We have been waiting for further instruction from Kimberly since our goals changed just a couple weeks ago. We still do not have a clear understanding of what we will be working on next since our last meeting. We will be meeting with Kimberly soon to discuss our next plan of action. During that meeting we may suggest ideas that can be implemented. One of the presentations for the point of participation project showed how some food advocacy groups use videos to display their organization to the public. Creating a montage of photos and video clips of the refugees and the organization would give outsiders a better sense of how ReEstablish Richmond impacts the community. In addition to the video, I would also like to develop different forms of media for ReEstablish Richmond. Since I see myself as a creative individual, I think this would be a good way to use my talents while creating content for the organization. I would like to create brochures emphasizing important facts about refugees, advertisements to promote the organization and to update the ReEstablish Richmond’s Facebook page as well as the blog with current events. I would also like to plan and come up with possible fundraisers to implement for the organization such as restaurant fundraisers, or even working with VCU students to fundraise in a competition format.

As of right now, I personally feel like I have not a large contribution towards the organization or towards the community. My group has not been actively working with ReEstablish Richmond on a regular basis, as originally expected. We complete the tasks we are given but with conflicting schedules and the lack of dependability from the agency, it has been difficult to make a significant impact. With new ideas, continuous dedication, and hard work, I’m confident that by the end of the semester we will have made an impact on the community as well as refugees in some way or another.