College problems: A different kind of Hunger Games

In the first weeks after coming back to school, it can be difficult to adjust. For some, this might manifest itself in struggling to keep up with a class schedule after a summer of sleeping in. For others it might mean trying to find a job or to make new friends in lieu of all those who have graduated. But for people like me, the hardest thing to adjust to is the food, either in procuring it or making do with what I have.

The question of obtaining food in college is almost as old as the first package of ramen. First, there’s the cost to consider. I regret complaining at the lack of ketchup in the house this summer when I was faced with the choice of buying textbooks or food in my first week back. But at Regent, I have learned to hold on to the truths in Deuteronomy 8:3: “Man shall not live on bread alone.” My faith will surely strengthen as I pray, quite literally, for daily bread — however, I hope that I’ll keep my fasting this semester to a minimum.  There are several ways that God provides through the benevolence of the university itself.

Last year, Robertson Hall was the hub of several free events, short lectures, seminars and even chapels for law students that all provided lunch. Now, it might be trespassing for an English major to take advantage of these, but I could argue that I was getting just much out of it as anyone else.  Not just bacon grilled cheese with tomato soup, sliders and tater tots, taco salad with jumbo chocolate chip cookies, but intellectually as well. My mother always said that, to a writer, all information is pertinent and useful; I was attending the school of life so to speak. If I learned something in addition to taking the lunch then I couldn’t be fairly classified as a freeloader. And by the end of that semester, I had learned the difference between L1 and L2, the words to the school theme song and how Regent Law students can sustain themselves through what I consider one of the most grueling academic programs the school has to offer.

Once the problem of finding food is taken care of, the real challenge begins. Maybe “challenge” might be a strong word. After all, the hard part is over, and all there is left to do is chew and swallow. But even though some days finding food is easy as lifting a plate to the sky and letting it rain, building a consistent diet is not. Last year I learned the hard way to stay away from vending machines. This semester, on the night when I realized that groceries weren’t in the budget because of textbooks, I thought I was clever to buy the cheapest can of plain oatmeal I could find. Oatmeal is healthy, I thought. Oatmeal is simple. I only need to add heat and water. Oatmeal will last me a long time. I forgot to consider that oatmeal is also sad and flavorless (sorry oatmeal lovers), and the daily breakfast food of choice for my grandmother. She would be proud, but after a week of this I was sure that I would resort to frozen peas and pasta as my morning meal instead.

Here I suggest food swaps among roommates and—trusted—friends. There’s also the option of repurposing foods, literally mixing up your diet. Flour, sugar, eggs and butter might not be edible each on its own, but combined they have the potential to make prize-winning cookies. In that vein things like frozen peas, oatmeal, leftover smoothie and your roommate’s grapes might be meager and bland sustenance each on their own, but I deny liability for anyone injured physically or emotionally by the suggestions in this article.

College is tough, no matter what non-school problem is the obstacle. But when I checked out too early with my oatmeal and frozen peas for the month, I had to wait outside of the Walmart for my roommates (and ride). To pass the time I read the movie titles offered on Redbox and saw the words “based on the worldwide bestseller”. Today I lived off of generosity and the grace of God, but someday I would be making classics and giving the surplus millions to feed hungry children. In college, I learned that being broke and proud are a horrible combination.