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Final Reflection Essay

John Muckerman

UNIV 211

Professor Boaz


Final Exam: Reflective Essay

When I first signed up for Food for Thought, I did so not really knowing what I was getting myself into. I picked it because I needed a non-business class elective and I just genuinely like food and cooking so I thought it would be a perfect fit. I soon realized that this class wasn’t going to be a piece of cake (no pun intended). The point of the class was to work with a client but also blog throughout the year about our experiences and also other assignments. We learned how impactful food is to all of us and how some struggle each an every day just to get food. The class worked with three different organizations all right here in Richmond, which shows how relevant the hunger problem is in almost every big city. Although this class was more challenging than expected, I am proud of myself for sticking through it and glad that I learned such valuable material along the way.

Before this class began, I had no idea that VCU had a food pantry for students who couldn’t afford a meal plan. When I heard a little information about the three organizations we could choose from I knew the VCU Ram Pantry was the one I wanted to work with. I love my school and I wanted to help out my fellow classmates that are less fortunate. Working with the Ram Pantry seemed like a luxury compared to what I was hearing about from the other groups. We had Terrence Walker who was ready and willing to let us do just about anything (except burn the place down) to help the Ram Pantry grow. He was very good at communicating with our group and our group was good at communicating with him.

Volunteering at the ram pantry was one of my favorite parts of the class because I gained an enormous amount of real-world experience. Usually the most important things you learn in life are the intangibles and this class gave me the opportunity to do exactly that. I am very proud that the ram pantry group brought new and exciting ideas to the ram pantry. The most influential idea that our group brought to the ram pantry was the making of food samples. This was really fun for me because I love cooking and also trying new things. One of the biggest problems Terrence had at the pantry was the fact that they had all this fresh and beautiful produce, but none of the students who used the pantry were taking any of it. So we decided to make food samples to show them that they can make great tasting meals that are very simple. By doing this I think we encouraged more people to broaden their palate and to try new foods. I am very happy with what we did at the ram pantry this semester and I think we have set them up for even more success in the future years.

(Below is a picture of me volunteering at the Ram Pantry making food samples)


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Another aspect of the class that I am proud to say I accomplished is helping with the ram pantry’s social media. This was one of the more challenging things that the ram pantry group had to deal with because it is not easy to basically start a social media from the ground up. We started both a twitter and Instagram account and managed to get about 100 followers on twitter and 103 on Instagram. Creating and managing these social media platforms is something that I can put on my résumé`. We learned from a first hand experience how important social media can be to an organization and for us to have done this for a non-profit while still in school is pretty amazing. The hardest thing about starting the social media was obviously gaining followers. It was difficult because many people didn’t know what the ram pantry was and also they didn’t have an incentive to follow them. Looking back, I believe that it would have been a better idea if we promoted the ram pantry to gain awareness rather than jumping straight into the social medias. Also a problem that I found with the social media is the fact that people simply didn’t have the interest to follow them. I do see where these people are coming from because there really is no point in someone who doesn’t use the ram pantry to follow them. I’m not sure how this issue could be avoided going forward, but it is something that should be addressed in the future.

Another portion of my experiences in this course that I would like to reflect on comes from my blog. I really enjoyed doing the makes this semester and I wish we could have started them earlier in the year because it felt a little rushed towards the end of the semester. My favorite make had to be the memes because I had always seen them before but never created one so it was a great opportunity to do so. I think that they are a good way to get a message across in a humorous fashion. My favorite meme that I created was the one seen below. It is of two pistachios’ that look like they are about to kiss and reads, “Make food not war.” I like this one because it is the most aesthetically pleasing and is also a bit funny, if I do say so myself.


Another make that I enjoyed was doing the food desert pictograph to visually show how difficult it is for some people to get food from a grocery store. I liked this make because I had never heard of a food desert before and it really opened up my eyes to see some of the peoples struggle. The pictograph the route that some have to take that live in the east end of Richmond. The pictograph shows that if you left at noon you would get to the Food Lion at 12:35 PM and you wouldn’t get home until 2:26 PM! This assignment opened my eyes to see why people who live in these food desert areas are practically forced to eat unhealthy fast food instead of being able to get fresh produce.


My last make that I enjoyed doing was the food art. I thought this make was the most fun to do because it was the most hands-on out of all the makes. This make was challenging because it takes a lot more artistic ability than I expected. It definitely made me have a new outlook on food in general and how it can be turned into beautiful art. Below is my favorite food art picture that I took. It is of a simple potato that I dug a small hole in and put a bunch of sprinkles inside. I liked this one the most because I turned a basic old potato that isn’t very exciting and through all these bright colored sprinkles inside to show the contrary.


Looking back I am really happy that I took this class. It was much more challenging than I expected but it was totally worth it. I gained so much real-world experience and things that I will put on my résumé`. I do wish we got to do things such as cook during class but I understand that we didn’t have all the necessary resources to do so. This class had a lot of aspects to it and sometimes it felt to be a little too much work. We had many different expectations that seemed to overlap each other. For instance, we had to read articles, chapters from books and watch long lectures, then blog about it, and finally we had to volunteer as much as we could. This got to be a little overwhelming at some points with the amount of other work from other classes. All in all it was a good course and I am glad I took it. It was challenging but there’s nothing wrong with a good challenge. I will recommend this elective to some of my friends because it is different and fun.


  • Food Desert Make blog post

  • Food art Make blog post

  • Volunteering blog post


Volunteering at the Pantry: Chicken Chili Day

A couple weeks ago I volunteered at the Ram Pantry from around     3-5 PM. Going in I didn’t know what we were making but I knew that we were making food samples. When I got there our group wanted to make sweet potato fries but there weren’t anymore sweet potatoes. So we had to think on our feet and create something with what we had. We had canned chicken (which is much more unappealing when seen/smelt up close), some fresh bell peppers, corn, and some spices. None of us really knew how it was going to turn out but we had to give it a shot.

I was in charge of cutting up the peppers and also dealing with the canned chicken. We then put it all in a pot and let it cook for a little while. When it was done we were all pretty nervous to try it but we all did and it actually tasted good! It really goes to show that you can make some pretty decent food with the foods they provide there. After we put the chili into dixie cups we also added some crackers to it to give it that real chili look. It turned out to be a perfect day for chili because it was rainy and cold outside. We walked around near the pantry and gave people the sample and people seemed to enjoy it. I didn’t hear one bad review on it. All in all it was a good day and it was fun to put something new together. Even the people that were working at the pantry were surprised that we made it taste that good! Hopefully some of the people who ate it tried to make it themselves.


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Make 5: Game for PP Children

I searched the internet and found a list of games that involve food and children. It was pretty simple and it seems like there are a lot of good ideas out on the internet.  The website I found had four games and I picked what I think was the best one and sent it to Keondra.

Below is the description of the game, it is called Funny Bunny

The object of funny bunny is to repeat a tongue twister with a mouthful of food. Players take turns adding food to their mouths and saying the phrase. The player who can audibly pronounce the phrase with the most food in their mouth wins. You can play funny bunny with marshmallows, banana chunks or string beans. Remember, however, that any food that is small enough to fit in your mouth may prove to be a choking hazard. Never play funny bunny while running or engaging in other physical activities.

Read more :

I think that if Peter Paul has bananas they could use those because they are healthier than marshmallows and softer.

Overall, I believe this would be a good game to play with children and I think they would find it fun and amusing and hopefully the kids would be more inclined to eat bananas after playing it.

My 3 Memes

My first meme is my favorite. I made this one in class of a picture I took the day we did Food Art. The next two are me just trying to be funny. They might not be good but I do like the pickle one.

I think this activity was fun and hopefully we can use some of these for the Ram Pantry and our other clients as well.





MAKE #1: Food Art

Last Thursday our class participated in food art, which was the first of many Makes that we are doing for the rest of the semester.  My overall expectation going in was that we were going to have fun but that it was going to be difficult. That was pretty much how it actually went.

We luckily had a whole bag of fresh produce that the Professor brought in which contained everything from squash and cucumber to a rose and pistachios. It was lucky that the professor brought in all those items because many students didn’t bring in food items. The professor left the room so she wouldn’t disturb our creative thinking and we were left with the rest of the class period to pretty much do whatever we wanted with the various food items.

I started off with the produce and tried to be as creative as possible but food art isn’t something you just pick up and do, it was much harder than it looked.

Below are some pictures I took that I thought were ok, but nothing great.


Here are some of the photos that I thought were a little better than those.


And finally my favorite photo is one that I can’t really explain. I don’t know why it is my favorite, maybe because of how simple it is but i’m not really sure. I just like it



Overall, I thought that this make was interesting and also very difficult. I noticed that many other students found it just as hard but it was fun. I believe we could tie this into our clients by advertising a contest of making food art out of an item of food that they get and posting all the entries onto our social media outlets. The winner could win a gift card or something along those lines.


Preparation for Make #1: Food Art

In class tomorrow we are going to try to create food art. For those who don’t understand what food art is, it is the art of putting food into obscure and visually pleasing forms. the cool thing I find about food art is the fact that you can take some ordinary, bland food and turn it into a masterpiece. Food art has become so serious that people are now dedicating their lives to it.

Although our class isn’t full of professional food artists, we do have some students like Aster who have taken beautiful shots of food art and can hopefully show us a thing or two on how it’s done. Each of us are supposed to bring in one food item that is different from everyone else’s so we can hopefully have as many different options to choose from as possible.

After searching the web for some ideas of food art I stumbled across many of them being of apples. I can see why, they come in different colors, they are easy to cut into different shapes, and they also make a healthy food look delicious. Below is a picture of an apple turned into a a beautiful

This picture obviously took some practice and precision to accomplish. I don’t think we will create something as extravagant as this but we can try!

I also found this video on how to create a bird with an apple

We could follow these steps and hopefully create something close to this.

Another food item that came up a lot while I was searching for food art was sushi. Sushi is an art form in itself but once people get creative with it, the possibilities are endless. Below is a picture i found of a sushi roll turned into a panda!

sushi panda

All in all, I think tomorrow will be fun and I think that one of us will make something very cool!

Midterm Part II: My Two Makes

John Muckerman

Univ 211

Professor Boaz


Midterm Part II: My Two Makes

For the three groups in the class, all of which have the same goal, which is to improve their client and to make it better than when they started, have also had very similar conflicts. Many of our ideas for our clients have either gone unnoticed or simply shot down. Fortunately for the Ram Pantry, our ideas have been embraced and we have actually had the opportunity to implement plans like food samples and our social media platforms. But for the other two groups, the clients have not been as welcoming to their new ideas and it seems like there is almost nothing for them to do. Now is our chance to think of new outside the box ideas that can hopefully get our groups more involved with the organizations.

My first “Make” involves the use of certain types and number of ingredients that has multiple different possible outcomes of dishes that each group can use to create their own unique dish. In essence, the professor would pick the same ingredients at random for each group and the group would have the class period to think of a recipe and the next class, bring it in for all to try. This idea stems from a popular TV show Chopped where a chief opens up an unknown container of ingredients and has to make their own distinctive dish using as much or as little of each ingredient as they want. We obviously don’t have all the equipment to do this in class but I was thinking we could do it outside of class and then bring it in to class next time and each taste our different creations.

Though I believe this is a good idea, there are problems that I see with it. First of all, getting the ingredients would be a difficulty because it is unfair for either the professor or the students to have to spend their money on the ingredients. I was thinking that maybe the Ram Pantry could donate some ingredients to the class so that is something that we would have to ask Terrence. Another issue that I see in this make is the fact that some of the students in class might have class right before our class at 12:30 so it would be hard to prepare or bring the food so its hot. Although there are these issues, I think that we can work them out so we can do this make.

I Believe that with is make, we can help our clients out by doing something fun and new. For the Ram Pantry, we could give the list of ingredients to each student that comes to pantry and they can go home and make their version and post it on social media. We could also have a winner of the best dish that would win a prize like a restaurant gift card or something along those lines. My main goal of this make is to encourage the users of the pantry to have fun with cooking and to show that the food at the pantry can be turned into really good food.

My second make involves cooking food but on your own time without bringing it into class. We could each research the foods that will be available at the Pantry, Peter Paul, or Reestablish Richmond and make a dish that involves some of them. We could create our own unique dish and if we like it, we could put copies of the recipe at our respected organizations for those to use it. This idea could help each organization teach those who use it different fun ways to cook the food that is provided.

I personally like my first idea better, but I believe that both could work. I love cooking and I think that it opens up the culinary mind. I honestly think that some of the people who use the pantry grab food items without thinking of the numerous recipes that they can cook. When I have gone to the Pantry I notice how the students pick things like desert bars and other processed basic junk foods, instead of getting the fresh, locally grown produce. I really want that to change so I hope that showing them that there are great recipes out their, it will help change and open their culinary mind

What’s Really in My Chick Fil A Sandwich?


(Above) Chick Fil A Spicy Chicken Sandwich. This is one of my favorite meals because I love spicy foods and chicken so it is the perfect fit for me. Below are the ingredients In this sandwich.

Spicy Chicken: Whole Breast Breast Fillet, Water,   Seasoning [Salt, Monosodium Glutamate (sodium salt of glutamic acid, basically a flavor enhancer), Sugar, Spices, Paprika]

Spicy Seasoning: [maltodextrin (Food enhancer from starch), flavor, modified rice starch, tapioca dextrin (Tapioca dextrin is obtained from the root of the cassava plant, and is used as a carrier for flavorings and colors in dry preparations and liquid), salt, cottonseed oil, paprika, contains less than 2% enzyme modified milkfat, soy lecithin]

Soy Lecithin: As I researched this I came across many websites that say this ingredient is harmful, yet it is still in many


Spicy Seasoned Coater: [enriched bleached flour {bleached wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate (Nitrate of Salt), riboflavin (flavor protein, Vitamin B), folic acid}, sugar, salt, monosodium glutamate, leavening, spice, nonfat milk, soybean oil, whey(Protein) , color {paprika, Yellow #6}], milk wash [water, nonfat milk, egg]

Peanut Oil [fully refined peanut oil, with Dimethylpolysiloxane, an anti-foam agent added)

Bun: (enriched flour [wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate {Vitamin B1}, riboflavin {Vitamin B2}, folic acid],

water, high fructose corn syrup, yeast, contains 2% or less of each of the following: liquid yeast, soybean oil, nonfat milk, salt, wheat gluten, soy flour.

Dough Conditioners [may contain one or more of the following: mono- and diglycerides (Food emulsifier of fatty acids, comes from plants) , calcium and sodium stearoyl lactylates, calcium peroxide], soy flour, amylase (Makes starch into sugars), yeast nutrients [monocalcium phosphate, calcium sulfate, ammonium sulfate], calcium propionate added to retard spoilage, soy lecithin, cornstarch, butter oil [soybean oil, palm kernel oil, soy lecithin, artificial flavor, TBHQ (Antioxidant, preservative)  and citric acid added as preservatives, and artificial color]), pickles (cucumbers, water, vinegar, salt, calcium chloride, alum, potassium sorbate [preservative], natural flavors, polysorbate 80, yellow 5, blue 1).

After all those ingredients you have a Spicy Chicken Sandwich from Chick fil A. I was very shocked of all the ingredients that go into one sandwich. I always pictured Chick fil a as a trustworthy company but this shows that anybody can add all these tongue-twisting ingredients to make it taste better. I will most likely keep eating this sandwich but it is good to know what is actually in it

McFrankenstein, Pollan’s Chapter 7: The Meal

After finishing up the final chapter in Pollan’s  book, I cannot begin to tell you how disgusted I am with not only McDonalds but all fast food. Not just because of their mystery ingredients that seem to have more artificial and corn ingredients than what is supposed to be in the food, but the whole marketing strategy in general. I don’t like the fact that fast food industry’s target so much of their food to kids. It is unfair to them because all they know is that it tastes good, they don’t understand anything about it. What struck me was when Pollan described how his son really wanted to go to McDonalds but his mother didn’t want to because she knew the health risks associated with it, but the son exclaimed, “Mom, you can just get a salad.” This struck me because I have said that exact same thing to my mom when I was younger and wanted to go to McDonalds. It is exactly what Pollan describes as “Denying the Denier.”

It is very interesting and courageous of Pollan to follow a cow all the way from birth to burger. I don’t think I would be able to eat something that I watched over especially in the conditions they were in. That’s the thing though. Most people who know what goes on behind the scenes of these fast food corporations don’t eat their food. I think if more people actually knew what went on in the background, less people would eat McDonalds. I also think it’s funny that McDonalds tried to strive to make sure that their food is known as quality food. Like their 100% real beef campaign and they make sure they say all white meat chicken. But what they forget to tell us is the numerous other corn based ingredients that truly make the burger and nugget what it actually is.

Above is an article I found interesting on Corn in Fast Food, to further push home the notion that Corn really is in everything.