#3: Reflections

Posted by in Project Updates

Cartoon by Jim Davis (obtained from http://www.gocomics.com/garfield/2001/01/10)

With the finish line in sight, our group was eager to carry out the final practical portion of the project with the school and finish on a high. A brief overview of how the taste test went will be discussed later, when our group reflects on what has happened in the project so far and our moments of significant change. A detailed account of the event will be recorded in our next post. For now, here is a look at our achievements this week, and objectives for the upcoming week(s):

Weekly achievements:

  1. Set a time with Lee Green

In order to conduct our surveys and tests, we needed to set a time with Lee Green. We did that over e-mails and decided the best time would be March 7th, during lecture and tutorial times. Sometimes, finding a time that fits our schedules mutually can be tough but we managed to find the most suitable time in a really short amount of time.

  1. Finished both surveys

Surveys are the priority of our project and we are glad they went as smooth as possible without any complications. For the general survey about the cafeteria, we have decided to do it on the iPads that David Thompson offers to each student. While the students were finishing up their class, we set up the surveys in each iPad. The recipe that the previous LFS team came up with was squash pasta bake which required to be baked for 10-15 minutes. While it was in the oven, the students came in the class and took the general cafeteria survey on the iPads. After the pasta was done, we all went back in the kitchen to give it a taste. While doing that so, we distributed the post-taste test survey on paper. The survey had 5 questions and some space for additional comments. 
Overall, including Lee Green, we were all satisfied on how smooth this process went. We got our results and we also got to eat some amazing pasta that the students cooked for us.

  1. Conducted the taste-test

The taste-test was conducted on March 7th and it also went very well. The recipe we were given was an fairly simple recipe to cook according to Lee Green. The students first boiled the pasta, mixed it with tomato sauce, some pesto and some garlic. Then, they laid the pasta out on a pyrex then topped with squash paste and mozzarella. They repeated this for another layer. All students were engaged in this process including us. After the pasta bake was done baking in the oven, we all tasted it. From our observations, most students gave an informal satisfactory feedback. But, we got to find out what they really thought about it from the post-test surveys.

  1. Keeping contact with supervisors and community managers

As this is an ongoing project with broad objectives, it may be tough to accomplish some things without any help. These can be communication problems, uncertainty of certain processes and more. In order to stay away from these complications, we continuously keep contact with Marc, Chef Lee Green, our T.A. Carrie and Will Valley. This helps us to keep us on track achieve on the results that we are hoping to get.

Weekly objectives:

  1. Analyze the data we gathered from the survey and the test

As we conducted our surveys and the taste-test, the next step would to evaluate them. In order to do that, our plan is to create tables, graphs and other tools that will aid the process on achieving our objectives. As a reminder, we want to find out food preferences of students and find ways to encourage proactive participation in local and nutritious foods.

  1. Start working on the final presentation + paper

Once we have compiled all our data, it’ll be time to start preparing for the paper and presentation. Our plan is to split up the parts, then have at least a draft of our main points by the end of next week so that we can at least have the information to put on the presentation. From there, we will go over the information that we are presenting as a group, and make sure our presentation is ready to go.


Moments of Significant Change

Although our group was busy conducting the taste test at David Thompson during the workshop, we had a chance to catch up after and reflect on our experience so far. There were definite moments of uncertainty and anxiety, but overall we collectively agree that our journey has been a smooth one, with minimal hiccups. One of our major regrets is to not being able to achieve all that we wanted to; although we have more or less achieved our overall objectives, we were not able to complete them to the scope and depth that we (and perhaps the community partners) were hoping for. Nevertheless, we hope that our results and achievements will serve as a starting point and pave the way for future projects.

Below we have identified significant moments throughout our project. The graph shows how each of us felt at these points, as indicated by the different colours. Overall, we agreed that these points impacted our emotions and motivations in similar ways; the trends for each of our ‘journeys’ have very similar patterns.

Group 19’s moments of significant change

  1. Meeting Group 19

We were quick to realise that all of us were from different backgrounds, and many of us from different countries with vastly different experiences. Some of us already had previous experience with community project outside of LFS250, and for some the LFS250 project didn’t end up working out, and so were still left confused with respect to what a community project entailed. We then realised that most projects would not be able to accommodate all our interests and areas of focus, but we were eventually able to decide on three projects that we were all interested in.

  1. Assigned Fresh Roots project

Luck was on our side! Having felt like we had won the project lottery, our group was in very high spirits. We immediately set out to make arrangements and get in touch with the community partner, Marc Shutzbank.

  1. Meeting with Marc Shutzbank

Despite some last minute confusion with regards to our meeting time and location, we arrived ready to hear what he had in mind for the project. For some of us, we had just learned the concept of Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD), and were consciously trying to apply its principles. Additionally, having just seen Ernesto Sirroli’s 2012 TED talk, we were inspired to “shut up and listen” – which is exactly what we did throughout the meeting. We came out feeling extremely motivated; he had given us a clear description of his hopes and visions for our project. Admittedly, it was somewhat easier to focus on some of the issues he pointed out – the food served by the cafeteria may not be culturally appropriate for students, or that the store ran by the marketing store, which sold ‘fast’ food, attracted students more than food from the cafeteria. However, we came to learn of Lee Green, and the group of passionate culinary arts students she teaches – undoubtedly the greatest assets in this community for this project – as well as a spacious cafeteria equipped with a well stocked, high-tech kitchen. He suggested that we get in touch with Lee Green, whom he spoke very highly of, and pay a visit to David Thompson Secondary. We were quick to start brainstorming ideas for our project, and how we may use the school’s assets to address the issues brought up by Marc. While we had some initial ideas, we wanted to gain more input from Lee, as well as some feedback for our ideas.

  1. Meeting with Lee Green

This was undeniably the pivotal point in our project. We had grand visions from the information that Marc gave us, but after meeting with Lee we found that these simply were not possible. It’s not that the meeting with Lee itself was bad, it’s what we found out from the meeting that led to a depression in the group’s overall mood. Lee was unable to accommodate the testing of all 5 recipes prepared by the previous group, and really only wanted to do 1, maybe 2 recipes due to time and budget restrictions. She also seemed bemused by the fact that we would not actually be involved in the preparation or serving of the food for the taste test, and would just be watching the students do all the work, adding further tension in our discussion. However, we as a group had already decided that this would be the best approach for several reasons:

  • this would be in line with the goals of ABCD, as we would have minimal involvement and would instead be drawing on assets already present in the community
    • in turn, if the recipe(s) do turn out to be successful, they would have the experience and hence would be capable of preparing it without outside help
  • we want to look at the practicality of preparing the recipe in their facility
    • we are not familiar with their facilities, and would not be as adept at using it as they would be
    • we would also not be able to judge how easy the recipe was to make; even if we were, it may not translate to how they will experience the process
  • we want the prepared recipe to be a true representation of the final product
    • due to differences in experiences, the dish we prepare may not be representative of how the final product will turn out as prepared by the culinary class

Additionally, Will later on advised us that we unfortunately do not have the ethics clearance to conduct the survey on the student population, so the information and data collected would be from a small sample (in this case, Lee’s culinary class). At this point, many of us were wondering, “what’s the point?” With these new uncertainties now in the picture, we were all apprehensive and anxious about how to prepare our proposal.

  1. Proposal + Feedback

With all these new things to consider, we figured we had to come up with new strategies, and fast. Reflecting on Tim Harford’s talk, however, allowed us to remain optimistic that this situation could be the catalyst to us coming up with a creative solution. We were still hopeful that we could still convince Lee to try two recipes, so that we could at least have something to compare to for our taste test. We were also faced with the reality that the survey could probably only reach the culinary class, and admitted that the results from the survey may be biased due to the population. There was relief when our plan of action was approved, and Reading Week came up which allowed us to rest and gain a well-deserved break.

  1. Survey + Taste Test

After the break, we contacted Lee advising her that we would prepare the survey and come for the taste test early March. All was well as we started preparing the survey, and asking for feedback of our drafts from Lee and Marc. However, as the set date approached for the taste test, anxieties were building within our group once again. How many, and which recipes, will we be testing? Will Lee be picking up the ingredients? What questions should we ask the students about the recipe in order for the taste test to yield meaningful results? Does Lee want us to print the surveys or will we just get the students to complete it on iPads? Lee finally advised us on Sunday that she would be picking up the ingredients, but many questions were still unanswered when we arrived on the day. Distressed and unsure what to expect, the five of us made our way into the school cafeteria.

The students were extremely hospitable, as they served us food they were making from before we got there. At this point, we were still uncertain how the session would work, and how we would be distributing the surveys. Luckily, later on we had the opportunity to set up and distribute the surveys to the students while the LFS350 recipe, the squash pasta bake, was cooking in the oven. After the pasta was ready, we each got the opportunity to have a portion of the pasta, and we were able to get student opinions on the pasta.

Follow-up questions for the students in the culinary class to fill out for the Squash Pasta Bake recipe.

The students were cooperative and courteous, and gave us the data we required to complete our project. More importantly, Lee admitted that she enjoyed this exercise and trying something new, and that she would definitely be using this recipe in the future. We were all extremely relieved as we left, knowing that the major part of the project was done and that our work had meant something. More importantly, we knew we had done our part as “outside consultants”, in accordance with the ABCD approach. We had listened to the community and their needs, figured out a solution that involved utilising existing assets to a greater potential, and we left knowing that this solution would be self-sustaining.

  1. Project Completion: The Graceful Dismount

Gif made by Julia Wu from video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vggVYLD9RjY

The final stretch to bring our project home will entail analysing the student feedback from our surveys, and brainstorming possible explanations to our current problem (why students choose to buy unhealthy foods). We will be deriving and clarifying information that can be extracted from our experience from the taste test as well as our experience at the school. We will be comparing the data collected prior to the study from the past LFS group with our own, and hopefully the comparison will allow us to further understand the situation and the major players in this puzzle.

Our report will be used for, but not limited to:

  1. potentially improving the health of students at David Thompson High School by pinpointing crucial factors that go into a student’s food choice;
  2. augmenting the amount of nutrients being consumed by students.

Though we may not be able to have everything regarding cafeteria food choices figured out or exactly what draws the student’s attention, our project’s purpose will be fulfilled once we have taken secure steps in the right direction. This could mean identifying important relationships within the school environment, or underlying trends of motivation to eat certain foods. We hope to receive constructive criticism as they would be very helpful for future usage and will allow the conversation to branch out beyond the high school setting.