Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Wandering down the hall, one thought courses through my mind: will Katie have pistachios? If not, perhaps Arielle will have some chocolate chip cookies. Of course, dinner is only in half an hour, but I’m craving snacks now. Hello, my name is Elizabeth and I am a junk food addict.
I swear I never used to be this obsessed with food – it has only been since I came to Swarthmore that I eat so much of others’ people food. When one of my friend’s wondered what she and her roommate would do with the leftovers from a party, her roommate automatically replied, “You want someone to eat our food? Go get Liz.” (Khan, Dana 3rd Quote Board).
As much as I complain about Sharples food, I should be grateful for automatically being on the 20-meal plan as a first semester freshman-it saves me a lot of money that would otherwise go straight into the coffers of Renato’s or the Kohlberg Coffee Bar. This raises a very real life concern for next semester: how will I fulfill my ginormous (that is an approximate form of measurement) appetite without breaking the bank?
Lucky for me, it seems that a wide variety of campus organization’s offer free food to lure warm bodies into attendance. So I thought to do a little experiment, and see if I could fill in the gap of six meals between the 20-meal plan and the 14 – for free.
I decide that it’s only worth conducting this experiment at the dinnertime hour – after all, I already know from my Intro to Econ class that there is no such thing as a free lunch.
The experiment started by coincidence this past week. I was walking into Sharples for lunch on Monday, and a friend was manning the Swarthmore Students for Life table. I was late and kinda just wanted to rush past his spiel on the bioethics lecture the club was hosting that night. But one word reached out to me and grabbed my ear: pizza. And yes, it was of the free variety.
So Monday night was handily taken care of. I went to the bioethics lecture and allowed my ears to be burned by one-sided analysis of abortion and cloning. But I was well rewarded for it with two slices of cheese pizza from Renato’s.
Tuesday night’s dinner also fell handily into place: it was conveniently Election Night, and the Democrats were celebrating what was ultimately a victory in Mephistos Lounge. And what political celebration by people under the age of 35 is complete without…well, yes, alcohol, but I am referring to the pizza. A friend complained about all the people who had not canvassed for any of the candidates or worked in any way for the election showing up when there was pizza (and eating his fifth slice). I said nothing enjoyed my free pizza – hey, I had voted Democratically, and this year that was a critical part of the victory. Perhaps if there had been pizza when the Democrats Club had gone canvassing, I would have shown up.
Wednesday night was a bit of a disappointment in the experiment. I went to the Fireside Chat with George Lakey, which, in the Reserved Students Digest, advertised as having food. Well, yes, there were snacks, but crackers and grapes do not a meal make. I would have thought a Class Awareness Month event would have been more sensitive to the possibility that some people fulfill their dietary needs by going to events for their free food. However, my hall’s study break was also Wednesday night, and the Hawaiian themed drinks and Fig Newton’s tied me over for the evening.
Thursday night was Dana’s Dean with a Dean. Obviously no one in their right mind voluntarily meets with a dean, but luckily Dana’s RAs have enough common sense to know to sweeten the deal with free… that’s right, you guessed it, pizza. The pizza had not yet arrived when the event started, and a dorm mate, noticing the lack of pizza, asked, “Liz, did you eat it all already?”
Unfortunately, my experiment hit a snag with the weekend: there are plenty of events advertising free alcohol, but, alas, no food. So my experiment-after hanging on by a thread Friday night when my roommate paid for, uh-huh, pizza for me because I did not have any cash – fell two meals short of the stated goal of six free dinners.
I learned a lot from my little experiment. While it is possible to eat free for a school week on a college campus, the food provided will by no means meat all of one’s dietary needs. In fact, it will consist solely of one dietary need: pizza. So next semester I might have to fall back on the old fashioned way of eating well for free: dating.