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Food on the brain.

April 2, 2012
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At Monday’s FeelGood meeting, our spirit chair Ian led a wildly entertaining activity in which we, sentence by sentence, wrote stories as a group.  After each person kicked off a story with one sentence, the sheets were passed around the room and each subsequent recipient of the growing story added one new sentence.  The catch?  You could only read the sentence written by the person before you!  Needless to say, the resultant tales made little sense; but sure did trigger an overwhelming cascade of laughter!

Aside from their utterly ridiculous nature, what really struck me about these stories was the high proportion of them that centered around food.  Collectively, we wrote the tale of Steve the potato chip who was burned in the fryer, attributed mind-altering properties to kiwi juice, and created on paper one of the weirdest grilled cheese sandwiches I’ve ever come across!

Clearly we’re a food-focused bunch.  But, is this an attribute of the FeelGood population?  Or, would my observation have been the same had I done the activity with another student group at UVM, with my mom’s book club, or with the employees at Wells Fargo’s San Francisco office.  Perhaps a little research study lies in my future.

I suspect that FeelGood members think about food more frequently than the average joe.  Students in FeelGood are interested in food: an aspiration to end hunger, a passion for grilled cheese, or a combination of the two was what brought each of us to the movement in the first place!  On top of that, we engage with food frequently, not only preparing and eating our own meals but also grilling sandwiches for our customers.  This invested interest in food probably does not retire along with our plastic spatulas when the kiosk closes.  It stays with us…and finds its way into our collective stories in the form of Steve the potato chip.

FN 4/2

On food, hunger, and health.

March 26, 2012

Yesterday evening, UVM FeelGood held its first ever Community Banquet, an event which featured presenters Supriya Banavalikar from The Hunger Project and Corin Blanchard from FeelGood World, powerful conversation, and, of course, grilled cheese!

During her presentation, Corin touched on the meaning of hunger.  Both FeelGood and our partner organization The Hunger Project define hunger differently than I would imagine most people do.  We believe that hunger extends far beyond a lack of food: one can hunger for an education, a voice, happiness, dignity.  As a freshman, my hunger for optimism and to be a part of a welcoming community drew me to FeelGood; and the fact that FeelGood nourished those hungers is why, four years later, I am still a part of the movement.

Corin’s presentation got me thinking: this multidimensional view of hunger requires us to also expand our definition of health.  So often, I hear my friends and family members make comments to the effect of, “For X, Y, and Z reasons I am quite miserable…but at least I am in good health.”  They of course are speaking to their physical health.  I would argue though that if someone is miserable they are not in good health at all, even if their internal organs and musculoskeletal system function just fine!

This argument expands the definition to include mental and emotional health.  To be truly and 100% healthy requires fulfillment in every way imaginable.  Of course, it is inconceivable to live in this idealistic, wholly healthy state all the time–health fluctuates–but doesn’t everyone deserve for that to be the general trend of their health status?  And why isn’t that possible?

The physical, mental, emotional health definition is fine and dandy but it is still pretty standard…and it is still, in my opinion, insufficient.  All of these aspects of our health are interconnected.  And on top of that, the health of everyone on this planet and the health of the environment are interconnected.  Yes, a certain degree of my health is dependent on your health!  I cannot say that I am healthy, or without hunger, if you cannot say the same.

Earlier I said that we can hunger for more than just food.  On the flip side, because of the interconnected nature of our health, food can impact more than just our physical health; food can both positively and negatively impact our mental and emotional health, and that of those around us.

Yes FeelGood is “ending hunger one grilled cheese at a time.”  But we are also working to improve every aspect of the health of both ourselves and our brothers and sisters around the world.

FN 3/26

Check out FeelGood’s latest marketing campaign!

March 25, 2012

An “over the top and around again over the top” grilled cheese.

March 22, 2012

In this segment from Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, host Guy Fieri takes viewers on a visit to Cleveland’s Melt Bar & Grilled, home of over thirty different grilled cheese sandwiches!  After seeing several blissfully happy customers interviewed, we follow Guy into the kitchen where Melt owner and chef Matt Fish grills up one heck of a sandwich for the camera.  This grilled cheese, titled The Parmageddon, features potato and cheddar pierogies, flambéed napa vodka kraut, grilled onions, and more cheddar cheese between two thick slices of grilled bread.  Some sandwich, eh?

In addition to being a fun view, this clip has potential implications for the behaviors and lifestyles of viewers.  According to social learning theory, people learn from observing others, both in real life and on television (Griffin).  The process by which a behavior viewed on tv is translated to a real life action occurs in three stages: (1) attention is drawn to the behavior, (2) the viewer retains  a memory of the behavior, and (3) the viewer is motivated to perform the behavior (Griffin).  Each of these steps can be either directly seen or envisioned in this segment from Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.

Attention:  Right from the start, Guy piques our interest by illiciting promising testimonials from Melt’s customers.  One diner asserts, “Dude, it’s bomb man!”  Throughout the segment, Guy’s fast-pace and enthusiasm hold the viewer’s focus.

Retention:  The creative sandwich fix-ins–pierogies and jalopeno poppers!–featured in the segment and Guy’s declaration that The Parmageddon is “over the top and around again over the top” ensure that viewers will not forget these grilled cheese sandwiches!  Even if they forget the exact recipe, viewers will remember that grilled cheese doesn’t have to be just bread and cheese–grillers can get creative and serve up a crazy exciting cheesy concoction!

Motivation:  This clip implies that grilled cheeses like these hit the brain’s pleasure center hard!  Viewers seeking satisfied taste buds may be inclined to recreate The Parmageddon, embark to create their own extreme grilled cheese, or even visit Melt Bar & Grilled!  Additionally, owner and chef Matt Fish–an attractive, fit, and tattooed young guy–appears to be very hip and cool as he gracefully (and intentionally) lights his slaw on fire.  Viewers may make their own sandwich creation as a way of emulating Matt and seeking his “cool factor.”

Whether the social learning effect of this segment on viewers is positive or negative is up for debate.  As is typical of Food Network shows (Ketchum 2005), the clip makes reference to no direct health implications of the featured food; as viewers, we must decide for ourselves.  In terms of physical health, cheese, pierogies, and vodka are probably not the healthiest ingredients to put on a sandwich.  But on the other hand, getting creative in the kitchen is likely good for one’s mental health!  Perhaps I am biased, but I say go ahead: challenge your creativity and grill up your very own extreme grilled cheese!

WP 3/23

Attention fellow Burlingtonians!!!

March 20, 2012

Health and safety at the kiosk

March 19, 2012

A month ago, Amanda discussed the appearance of cleanliness at the on-campus dining location New World Tortilla.  But, an uncleanly appearance is not a problem limited to this one facility at UVM.

Like any food service enterprise, FeelGood has a health permit and is thus required to maintain certain health codes.  Lately, I’ve noticed that we have been a bit nonchalant when it comes to upholding these standards.  And, it’s not just me.  A member commented on our very messy work space the other day as well!

Now, before I say more, I want to put it out there that nothing gross happens at our kiosk.  Cheese dropped on the floor is not recovered and put into a sandwich and no creepy crawlers lurk around our bread supply.  The standards I’m talking about are trivial–excessive crumbs on the floor, flip-flop clad feet, and food consumed too close to the kiosk.  Little things.

But, when FeelGood is at risk of being shut-down if we do not pass health inspection (which can occur at a moment’s notice!), the little things matter.

FeelGood is unlike other food-service establishments in that we are entirely student-run.  Go to Friendly’s (my former place of employment) and you will find a classic system of power: a manager and employees.

At FeelGood, we are all students and are all friends.  Yes, there is a group of officers, but we make every effort to blur that member-officer distinction.  For this reason, rule breakers are not held accountable for their offense.  No one wants to correct their friend and risk embarrassing her for something silly like forgetting to wear close-toed shoes!

When I worked at Friendly’s, we were freed of this responsibility of correcting our friends and fellow employees; that was the manager’s job.

I think that at FeelGood, we need to get a bit bolder and a bit tougher: bolder in our willingness to correct the mistakes of our friends and tougher in our ability to accept criticism from each other.

FN 3/19