Dining crasher: How I ate for free on campus for a week

isabella
The Spectrum

Have you ever crashed a networking event on campus just because you saw a lavish refreshment table or attended a club meeting you had no interest in because it had pizza? Have you ever considered donating blood just for the free chips and cookies? 

If so, you are not alone. I, too, am a broke and hungry college student. 

So, for one whole week, I tried to survive entirely on free food. 

I, like many part-time, minimum wage-making students, find free food a necessity at times. 

I have been a serial dining crasher since I started college. 

I know how to surreptitiously slither into a networking event in the Center for the Arts to snag an artisan pizza slice and miniature cannolis. 

After two years of cultivating my crash methodology, I jumped at the opportunity to see if I could survive on free food alone for a week.

I started that week ready to test my abilities. I got to the Student Union and could not believe my luck. 

That Monday was the day of the Sustainable Living Fair & Pride of NY event. For those of you who missed this golden opportunity, local businesses tabled and offered free food samples to students. 

It was only the first day and I was already off to a great start. 

Everything I could ever want was at that fair: cacao granola bars from Feel Rite Fresh Markets, apples from Boulevard Produce, Perry’s ice cream sandwiches, pierogis, meatballs, pastrami sandwiches, smoothies — I ate it all in the 15-minute window I had before my 11 a.m. class.

It was not even noon and surely I was close to my recommended calorie consumption.

The next day was not as easy. I scoured the hallways of campus, looking for club flyers that advertised “Free Pizza” at introductory meetings. 

I saw a few ice cream socials and pizza parties, but they had already happened in the first week of school. 

I finally stumbled upon the free fruit stand run by the wellness center while walking through the union. The wellness center offers free fruit on Tuesdays and vegetables on Thursdays. I stopped into the office and found out that it also offers free tea, massages and condoms. 

The latter two, however, were not edible. After pouring myself a cup of hot tea, I continued my search.

Four hours later and my blood sugar was depleting. 

I saw that there was a blood drive going on in the union and peered in the doorway to find a table with cookies, chips, granola bars and apple juice. 

I walked in and declared enthusiastically that I would like to give blood — in exchange for the refreshments. There I was, a shining emblem of charity in the community, and so close to getting my belly filled with carbs. 

I happily started to fill out the paperwork when I read that people who had traveled to foreign countries recently were not eligible to donate blood. I had been in Poland this summer, so no cookies or chips for me. 

That evening I went to my babysitting job and stuffed my face with an Uncrustables Sandwich and a Cosmic Brownie. Never has processed, refined, sugary kid food tasted so delicious to me. 

If Tuesday was tough, on Wednesday I went the whole day without eating. 

While heading out from my class in the CFA, I saw a man walking outside with three pizza boxes. As a seasoned dining crasher, I knew that multiple pizza boxes could mean a free food event. I dashed out the door of the building, stealthily chasing the man with the pizza —careful not to spook him. 

Alas, he turned a corner by Slee Hall. I whipped around it only to find that he had disappeared. 

Was there ever really a man with pizzas, or was I beginning to hallucinate from malnutrition? 

Luckily, Seasons Café in the CFA usually has a plate with free samples. I grabbed three broken oatmeal cookie samples as the servers looked at me disapprovingly.

On Thursday, my luck took a turn. The Honors College was having its monthly International Tea Time event. Being a member of the college, I have access to these networking events. 

The theme for September was Japan and there was free sushi for students and faculty. That held me over for lunch. 

I went to my 7 p.m. lecture in Baldy that evening, and my angel of a professor bought the class donuts. My rumbling stomach subsided as my Boston crème melted in my mouth.

But I was still so, so hungry.

Friday finally came and it happened to be payday. My check from work processed and I was ready to be done with the free diet. 

As Lil Scrappy once said, “I got money in the bank, Shawty what you drank?” 

“I’ll have a large Protein Berry Workout, please. Put it on my card!” I said to the cashier at Jamba Juice while speaking at too loud a volume for nine in the morning. I was so excited to finally be able to pay for food.

Would I recommend the free diet to anyone? Not unless you hate yourself. 

The crashing life is a gamble and every day is a lottery. One day you are rolling in free pierogi samples and the next you are chasing pizza guys and bartering human blood for a cookie. 

In short, just get a job.

Isabella Nurt is a staff writer and can be reached at features@ubspectrum.com.