I have to admit that this class was an interesting experience, with lots of ups and downs, and windy turns. But nether the less I learned a lot, and have enjoyed many things that occurred within and outside the classroom.
In the beginning of the semester, I was thrilled with our weekly readings, understanding more about the food industry. I heard rumors about the food industry, rumors that were never clear. Food for Thought though gave me a clear image, and not smokes and mirrors, look on the corporate people who run our food. This class also gave me also a clear image on how consumers play a larger part in the American food situation than they realize. An example would be from my favorite reading “Lunchtime is All Yours”, with my favorite quote being the following:
Kraft had been deftly defusing criticism like this since the earliest days of the Lunchables, of course. One of the company’s counter arguments was that kids don’t eat the Lunchables every day, so even the versions with the heaviest loads of salt, sugar, and fat were part of their overall diet that parents could supplement with healthier foods. They also pointed out that there was nothing automatically healthy about the brown-bag lunch, if parents loaded them up with their own brownies and cookies and soft drinks. As for the kids, the company pointed out that they were unreliable – even when their parents packed fresh carrots, apples, and water, they couldn’t be trusted to eat it. Once in school, they often trashed the healthy stuff in their brown bags to get right to the sweets.
This quotes sums up my feelings on the food industry: the food industry would not offer these products to individuals if there was not a demand for it. That parents have a responsibility to show a better diet option for the next generation, in order for a change to ever occur.
The main project I worked on, or at least tried to this semester, was ReEstablish Richmond with Kimberly. On September 5, I wrote on my blog the following:
Today, our group met with Kimberly who runs ReEstablish Richmond. During our conversation, she explained more deeply how the organization is run. She said that there are two parts of it: (1) the community leads the refugee (2) the refugees leads the community. She specifically told us she wants us to do story telling for the blog, by interviewing the refugees. She also wants us to be part of the workshops, to help build trust amongst us and the refugees.
We also had an orientation a couple weeks later with another class, understanding that during the interviews, we need to “not [be] a case manager and be aware of [the] culture that we our selves have, along with the culture the refugees have” (ReEstablish Orientation).
This was all very exciting to me. As I had written in my midterm essay not long ago, my grandfather was a refugee in America after World War II due to his family receiving political persecution in Ukraine. I thought I would have a taste of what he and his family had to go through when they adjusted to their new life in America, by having interactions with the refugees. However, none of this happened. Due to certain reasons, the team and I were not allowed to interview with the refugees, the biggest reason being ReEstablish Richmond did not receive a grant they thought they were going to. The relation between the grant and interviewing refugees still does not make sense to me, but it did for Kimberly for whatever reason, even though she did not explain these reasons to us. She then gave us busy work where we made recipe cards.
We only volunteered that one day in mid October, and did not hear anything else from Kimberly for a month. We tried to throw project ideas to her that we knew we could accomplish, but she was not interested. We finally got somewhere though when we suggested holding a fundraiser, and she replied saying she was already setting one up in mid November. We immediately volunteered, and began preparing for the fundraiser that would be held at Baker’s Crust.
The Baker’s Crust fundraiser went shockingly well, considering how everything else went. Many customers gave fifteen percent of their check towards ReEstablish Richmond, and several others bought raffle tickets for a handmade bag created by a refugee who is receiving help from ReEstablish Richmond. It was apparently the busiest night at Baker’s Crust on a Wednesday night, which was absolutely great to hear for the non-profit. ReEstablish Richmond by the end of the night raised more than three hundred dollars. Kimberly and I briefly talked about me working with her next semester working on an Etsy account for the refugees. As first, I was really excited and said “yes, absolutely.” I agreed at the spur of the moment, because I know how much an online shop would benefit the refugees financially and emotionally. The next day however, I knew right away that I could not possibly do this for her, for reasons that I will explain later.
The best thing this semester though were my teammates and peers. This class would not have been as enjoyable as it was if it were not for my peers, and his and her great energy, enthusiasm, and winning personalities. When Kimberly kept on delivering bad news, we stuck together, and were able to confide in each other on how we felt, and how to best make the situation. We were all determined to make these extremely sour lemons into sweet lemonade. I know now that if I ever need them again in the future, I can always go to them for help, even after this class ends.
The only thing I wish I could have done differently, is figure out a way to talk to Kimberly on how she could improve ReEstablish Richmond to get it in the direction she needs it to be. The area that she needs to improve on dramatically is networking, in every aspect of it. I was trying to find her on LinkedIn, so I could keep easy connection with her and see how ReEstablish Richmond grows, to shockingly find that she is nowhere to be found. I thought to myself, “how could the head of a non-profit not have a LinkedIn?” To run a non-profit you need connections to bring in money. Everyone in my non-profit Think of Us, we are constantly talking to people about what we are doing. This especially goes to our head guy Sixto, who just came back from LA with potential new sponsors. All he does is talking to people, convincing others that his or her money is best spent on us. I don’t think Kimberly is doing this, and is unfortunately trying to do a little bit of everything, which is just not possible. Her energy would be best spent trying to do what Sixto does: finding people who support you financially and emotionally. I say emotionally because some people do not have money, but have lots of connections that they can give. Take myself for example, another non-profit individual who is trying to stay ahead by knowing everyone. However, she treated my team and I poorly this semester with not much respect. I have also seen how she has up in the air ran her non-profit, giving me little hope that this good purpose non-profit will not make it in the long run. Because of the situations she put my team and I, I will not be sharing my contacts with her, or tell others about it. Also because of this, I do not want to work again with her on the Etsy shop, even though I really do want to work for the refugees. I’m afraid that creating a simple Etsy shop will end up being a much too complicated process with little determination to move forward from Kimberly.
Unfortunately, Kimberly left this semester on a sour note, but everything else I have absolutely loved in the class. It was good experience, experience that I can take back with me to my non-profit Think of Us. We recently won People’s Choice in VCU’s competition The Next Big Idea, winning $500 that will go towards our future office. We are waiting to see which other categories chosen by VCU we have won. Because of this win, we received multiple sponsors who said that they will help pay for our future rent, which is exciting. Also because of this win, an individual that we have been working with to try to fund us, has agreed to start a fund raising campaign for us of $100,000. We are beyond excited with this news. Also, after this win, Sixto noticed how many individuals I had brought in to vote, having us now consider me doing not only design work, but be the head person on social media. I would not have gotten my extra skills in social media if it weren’t for this class, and for that I am forever grateful.
At the beginning of the semester I assumed this class was about how food affects or day to day life. I thought we food study the sociology of food, psychology of food, food in different cultures, how the government affects food and so much more. Needless to say, but I was way, way off based. We did however, learned some things. Things that I didn’t necessary want to learn, but things I NEEDED to learn.
We learned about what actually can be in food. We watched a documentary, called Food Inc. in class. This movie along with chapters from 2 different books showed us what goes into food and the logic behind the food industry. My blog post Chick Fil EW (http://rampages.us/jorgensenbem/2014/10/23/chick-fil-ew/) discusses what actually is in a Chick-Fil-A sandwich. We also went on a Processed Food Hunt to see that foods that you expect may be health aren’t always health at all (http://rampages.us/jorgensenbem/2014/10/18/processed-food-hunt/)
We leaned how to work with a non-profit organization and others. Each student selected a non profit organization out of three options to work with over the semester. These groups were used to educate the public, and learn about the difficulties that others face, food-wise. One make we did was a picket-graph that visually shows the struggle of something as simple as grocery shopping for people in food deserts (https://magic.piktochart.com/output/3525114-untitled-infographic). I worked with Ram Pantry and that was a crazy experience in itself.
Ram Pantry had issues of its own. It was really hard working with the large group of Ram Pantry because so many people were passive, or just didn’t care. We had a group of three people selected for social media.And even though it took forever to get he Facebook info, the person in charge of Facebook only did anything on Facebook ONCE. And as the semester went on less and less people came to volunteer at the Ram Pantry on the last day of sampling I was the ONLY person doing it. ( You can read more about Ram Pantry sampling here: http://rampages.us/jorgensenbem/category/ram-pantry/).
Lastly, we learned about ourselves. We learned that with a little team work a few college students can start educating the campus. The computers aren’t too hard with a little help. We made friends and networking connections. In all of the issues there were benefits. I’m not talking another service learning class though.
The other night I was thinking over how much I enjoyed the food art activities in our fft class, so I decided to give it another go around. Fortunately, for me, I had some ‘pretty’ food on hand so the task wasn’t too taxing….
I really like the clear ‘focus’ of this photograph
This was the most frustrating sampling. It was supposed to be the last afternoon sampling week. Serena didn’t say she wouldn’t be able to come until Monday and I wasn’t able to get a general sampling schedule organized until later that night when I got off of work. By that time, Alex, whom said she would definitely work Ram Pantry said she went home for some reason. I told people to come the day of seeing as time went on no one showed. I was so frustrated. And it kind of hurt my feeling that no one would come and help. This was my worst nightmare for this class and even wrote about this concern in my midterm and it actually coming true is an awful feeling and is why I HATE group work. People also didn’t seem interested in the samples at all on this which just added to my disappointment.
On November 12th Tori and I made a chunky salsa for sampling at the Ram Pantry. We were the only ones to show up but since we were making something so simple we didn’t think it would be that big of a deal. This day we also made our kale chip video for one of our MAKES. Although it was supposed to be the last morning shift and only us to came, we got to know each other better and we had a lot of fun!