Wrapping up

Hello all and welcome to the close of our semester together! At this point your work is complete and submitted, and most of the work now remains on my end: grading. A note about that, and instructions for this week are listed below.

Final class

To wrap up I’d like us to complete two things: a 360 overview of our class and your VCU course evaluations. Both are linked below!

360 overview – before completing this document please return to our weekly schedules and look over the full scope of the work we’ve done this semester. Keep that tab open for consultation as you complete this survey.

VCU course evaluations – our goal this semester is to reach an 85% completion rate for our course. I’ll keep a running count of our completion rate and update you with my current level of urgency.

All three surveys are anonymous and have no effect on your final grade. They are intended to help improve this course and my overall teaching. Thank you for completing these!

Final grades

I’m grading now and will have those grades posted ASAP! Please be patient this week. I have a remaining 30 final papers to grade (totaling roughly 350 pages) and 70 final projects to grade (with 70 strategic plans and 3-4 campaign items a piece). I’ll be speedy, but I also need to be thorough and fair. Grades will be posted as soon as possible.

So long and thanks for all the fish.

Friday, March 23rd: Dumpster Diving Dilemma

On Wednesday we read “Sharing the Wealth at a Dumpster Divers’ Feast” and talked about the short film “First the Dishes, Then the Revolution.” Key questions raised in this discussion were:

  • Is this truly revolutionary?
  • What stakes to state and local governments have in regulating what happens to our waste?
  • Would we eat at Grub?

For Friday I’d like you to read a second article: “Food Not Bombs Cooks Meals Acquired from Dumpster Diving.” This article visits a Toronto chapter of the organization Food Not Bombs, which argues our collective spending priorities favor corporate wants over human needs.

Local Food Not Bombs groups are known for setting up feeding sites for people with low food security, like people who are currently homeless. Richmond’s Food Not Bombs has historically served food each weekend at Monroe Park (which caused controversy when the city shut the park down for renovation — see here and here).

This, many have argued, raises a moral question: do people have a right to food access? Do people have a right to know that their food is safe to consume? Does serving food harvested from dumpsters put these two rights at odds? Read the content linked above, and respond here by Sunday evening! Note that we have other reading due for class on Monday.

Snow Wednesday, March 21st

Hi all! We have a snowy morning and a 2 hour delay on campus. Assuming that doesn’t change office hours will shift slightly. I’ll be in today 11am-1pm.

Welcome to Unit III!

We’re rounding out the second half of our semester this week, which means we’re ready to launch Unit III.

In your first two units you’ve studied how humans build social narratives around food, and you’ve looked at how industrialized practices change the ways food systems interact with human and nonhuman needs. For our third unit we’ll look at how humans interact with storytelling the public sector to make changes in their varied food systems.

To launch this week we’ll look at a very recent fight over the narrative put forth by an industrial food giant: McDonalds. Ten days ago, McDonalds launched this ad in honor of International Women’s Day:

How was it received? Not well by McDonalds Workers.

Why? The Washington Post had some possible answers:

Four graphs illustrate the prevalence of women among minimum wage works and restaurant workers, and the lack of women in McDonald's leadership.



This is a great illustration of what we’ll be looking at in our third unit. McDonald’s tried to craft a message of women and empowerment. Employees worked to reorganize that narrative in support of their ongoing campaign for higher wages and safer working conditions.

In Unit I we discussed identities as socially constructed. This unit we’ll think about how we battle for control over those narratives in the public.

Read more at Here’s how McDonald’s could actually help women.

Office Hours the week of March 12th

We have departmental visitors this Monday and Wednesday, which will affect my office hours! I’ll be in the office this week Monday (11:15-12:30), Wednesday (11:15-12:30), and Friday (10-12). Normal hours resume Friday, and this is the last week of disruptive meetings, so we should be set moving forward. See you all soon!

Unit II is live!

The subject says it all. With the exception of the final week, our schedule and assignments for Unit II are posted in our daily schedule.

For this unit we’ll be moving beyond storytelling and into industrialized food systems. At the outset we’ll bridge unit I and unit II by thinking about what we believe versus what is true. Because we so frequently encounter food as a consumer product, most of our narratives about the food we eat come from marketing teams. The Produce Marketing Association tells us they’re growing a healthier world.  What does that mean? Who does it benefit?

Our initial questions for this unit will explore the stories we’re told about the food we eat. What do those stories reveal? What do they conceal? Ultimately, though, this unit will invite us to look more deeply at the way policy affects producers and to understand food systems as an often-conflicted meeting of the ecological and the economic .

See you all tomorrow!

Second Sick Day: Monday Jan 29th

Hello all! I’m so sorry to call in for a second sick day, but I am still surprisingly very very sick. I had big plans to fake it today, but I’m not quite ambulatory.

This means we have a second (and very desperately hopefully last) sick day. You have two things to work on today in lieu of class:


Read Pinchin’s “How Slaves Shaped American Cooking” and Godoy / Simon’s “Why the Story of Southern Food…“. Then respond to our discussion prompt on FlipGrid here.

Prepping for our Unit I writing assignment

Read our post on Unit I Writing. Post any questions you have on our “in lieu of Monday office hours” FlipGrid here. I’ll go through your questions tonight and tomorrow and post answers!

Again, apologies for being out today, and I look forward to seeing you all again Wednesday.

Week 1 online!

Hello all! I’m so sorry I’m not able to meet you in person this week, but I’m looking forward to seeing you online and getting to meet you this Monday.

As I noted on email and in our course blog, I’m at a conference all day tomorrow (Friday), so we won’t be meeting in class. In lieu of an in-person meeting I’ve asked you all to do a few things:

  1. Read the welcome post from when our class website launched, and look over our syllabus.
  2. Read this blog post through to the end!
  3. ReadChoi’s “What Americans can learn…” and respond to the video discussion prompt here. This site, Flipgrid, is one I used for some of my online classes, and it’ll allow us to see one another, introduce ourselves, and share a little info before we convene for the first time on Monday.

Missing our first class this week mean losing a little bit of the time I’d hoped to spend with you talking a little bit about the interdisciplinary study of food. I addressed this a bit in my first blog post, but here I’d like to show you what happens when you look up TED Talks on “Food.”

Things get interesting pretty quickly, especially if we’re looking at how disciplines might change how we think about food studies. If you’re an urban planner, you might be interested in “How urban agriculture is transforming Detriot.” If you’re interested in international policy, a global food crisis might be of concern for you. If you’re a STEM person forgotten space age tech might appeal (though if you have any understanding of scientific research fields, you might be suspicious that the space age holds technologies that are lost or forgotten).

I am interested in many things, but one thing that strike me when I study food are the economic systems that dominate our conversations. I’m interested in consumer culture, so when I look at the images above, I notice that many speakers are selling me something that sounds simpler than it likely is: easy solutions to poverty, computers that will farm for me, crops that don’t need water, food engineering, even space…without space?

The reality is, most of us will buy all the food we will ever eat. That means for most of us food is a necessity, but it is not a right. That also means food is a commodity that someone else holds. In 2017, food is closely tied to power. The sidebar of our website reads:

Our section of the course will focus on foodways as a form of storytelling, primarily about communities, economies, and cultures. In service of this we’ll explore the intersection of food as cultural practice and as governing policy. How are food cultures generated in communities, and how does that affect how we govern through food? How does policy implementation change practice on the ground? What role does private enterprise have in all of this?

There are many ways to study food. We will study food as a form of storytelling, and that storytelling as a way of narrating, transforming, and affirming power relations. There is a lot we can learn if we think critically about our habits and systems related to food. I’m looking forward to sharing this process with you!

Don’t forget: this work listed above is to replace our class on Friday. You still have separate homework due for Monday! Consult the daily schedule for details and links.

Welcome to UNIV 211, Food for Thought.

It’s great to meet you!

In our first week we’ll be introducing the overarching themes of our class, and discussing what it means to take an interdisciplinary approach to the study of a subject, in this case food. When I teach writing and research, I often tell my students that there are no universals, but a class with a topic so broad challenges this claim. Food is essential for human survival, and this makes it a challenging topic to approach from a single disciplinary lens. Is food preparation individual creative expression or a broader cultural practice? Is food an issue of environmental  or economic sustainability? How should food policy address health needs, worker safety, or encroachment on non-human habitats?

These are not mutually-exclusive concerns of course, but organization of human learning and work often presents them as such through simple conventions like disciplinary study or job descriptions. In our course we’ll use multiple disciplinary lenses to understand food production, preparation, and consumption as expressions of broader human structures: social norms, creative impulses, economic pressures, community governance, and ever-shifting power dynamics.

Please note: In week 1 we’ll have an in-class session and an out-of-class session. You can find the requirements for each of our classes at our daily schedule.

Your professor for this class is Kristin Reed. She can be contacted in a couple of ways:

  • email: kreed@vcu.edu
  • Office: Harris Hall 5106
  • Office Hours: MWF, 10am-12pm

If you can’t make her office hours, reach out after class or via email to arrange an alternate meeting time. Office hours are open and walk-in. You don’t need an appointment to come by!