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Food For Thought

Food For Thought

Baltimore Museum of Industry, 2023

Food For Thought celebrates the food service workers that prepare and distribute over 88,000 meals each day to ensure Baltimore City Public School (BCPS) students don’t go hungry. Even when school buildings closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, these essential workers continued to feed city students and their families.

To honor their hard work, the Baltimore Museum of Industry partnered with Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) to create an audiovisual exhibition that places the typically back-of-house staff front and center. Ashton developed the exhibit’s identity and interactive experience to complement portraits taken by photojournalist J.M. Giordano and interviews hosted by WYPR radio producer Aaron Henkin.

Identity / Environments
Interpretive Graphics



Cafeteria furniture, sourced from BCPS’s surplus supply, immediately positions visitors within a tangible and nostalgic frame of reference. We handpicked the melamine chairs to create the color palette for the exhibit; elsewhere, a traditional folding table fills in as a text panel.


The portraits were taken to make the subjects look and feel like superheroes, while the accompanying audio gives each their own voice. As the workers’ interviews play in the space, the gallery lighting “spotlights” the speaker’s portrait before moving onto the next.


The chair-based color palette is carried over to the data graphics accompanying each portrait. Topics covered include school nutrition, students’ favorite school meals, and food insecurity in Baltimore.

Taken together, the visual system exudes an “Educational Bauhaus” style, thanks to its dedication to geometric forms, simplified color palette, and function-as-design sensibility.


The interactive area encourages both children and adults to engage with the subject of school meals and nutrition. Two of the tables introduce additional tactile elements typically found in primary schools: a chalkboard table asks visitors to “Draw your favorite school food memory,” while a felt-covered table prompts them to “Create a balanced meal on the plate.”


At a third table, people are asked to write thank-you notes to food service workers; the resulting messages are then displayed nearby. By making the personal feel heroic and the heroic feel personal, we remind each visitor that individual efforts can positively impact us all.



Vivian Marie Doering