By: Kaye Burnet | The Duquesne Duke
I wake a few minutes earlier than usual, get ready for the day and scurry toward the Assumption Hall lobby. When I enter, boxes of fresh donuts and steaming thermoses of hot chocolate and coffee greet me. The best part is: this breakfast won’t cost me a thing.
After receiving the millionth “Advice and a Slice” email from Career Services, I decided to undertake a challenge that would spare my Flex dollars and save my meal swipes — I would eat for free on campus for an entire week.
If you take a good, hard look at the emails that pour into your Duquesne inbox or scan the posters papering stairwells across campus, you’ll realize that every organization, charity and department on campus has the same strategy for attracting students to their events — bribing us with food.
I thought maybe if students could plan far enough in advance, they could maximize their free food consumption. This might seem like a silly gimmick now, when the semester is young and Flex is plentiful, but in late April? You might just be tempted to put my scientific findings to use. And if you’re an upperclassman or commuter without a meal plan, you could spare your pocketbook at least a few dollars a day.
My quest started last Thursday evening. You might recall an email or two in your inbox from the SGA about a meeting with officials from Parkhurst Dining in the Union’s City View Café. The meeting was an opportunity for students to voice concerns, ask questions and learn more about campus dining. It was also an opportunity for those same students to eat a free catered meal.
Pulled pork, mac n’ cheese, loaded fries, zesty buffalo chicken salad, a refillable drink and a brownie with chocolate icing only cost me a little time and effort. And I got to learn more about Parkhurst’s mysterious pricing scale and why Options closes on the weekends.
The whole session took about an hour, which is a little longer than my average dinner but not by much. There was plenty of food for second helpings, since the student-to-official ratio was approximately 2:1. I know there are more than 15 students on campus who have questions or complaints about campus dining. I hear more than 15 questions and complaints everyday from people in the lunch line with me at Towers! At least your non-attendance left more for me. This food was nicer than some dishes I have enjoyed in sit-down restaurants. I should have made a date out of it.
The next morning was Extra Perk donuts in Assumption Hall. Every two weeks or so, the Honors College sponsors a small breakfast and calls it “Extra Perk.” It’s a chance for students to meet professors and other campus faculty. There’s a full schedule of upcoming breakfasts posted in Assumption, but it’s reserved for honors students, so I must caution that free-meal-seekers who are not Honors College members must at least ask permission before swiping a pastry.
Friday’s lunch was leftover buffalo-chicken-salad-in-a-cup from the SGA dinner, which reminds me of a key guideline for discount diners: always take extra food that’s offered to you and always save your leftovers! Your RA has a floor program that leaves her with a half box of unfinished pepperoni pizza? Offer to take it off her hands, then stow it in the fridge. Presto! Lunch for a week.
Some wise students might criticize that this is remarkably unhealthy, since science has revealed the primary health benefit of eating pizza to be that it’s slightly better than starving. I would tell those naysayers — you are absolutely correct. One thing this adventure has taught me is that eating well on campus and eating free are on opposite sides of the Venn diagram.
Duct Tape and meatballs might seem to have little in common, but both played a role in Friday night’s dinner. The Nitespot is a frequent free-food supplier, and last Friday was no exception. I learned how to make a wallet out of mustache-themed duct tape while chowing down on three varieties of specialty meatballs and slurping lemonade from the soda fountain.
The Nitespot is a short walk from The Incline, which means hungry students looking for food after 9 p.m. can scavenge around the pool tables for free tasties before digging out their wallets at the former Off-Ramp. Tuesday nights are “free wings”, which sure beat the price of Wings Over Pittsburgh, if not the quality.
Another thing for the thrifty and possibly morally deficient student to keep in mind is Friday’s FeelGood Deli. This campus charity raises money to fight global hunger by selling grilled cheese sandwiches every Friday night out of Towers. The sandwiches have no set price, since buyers are encouraged to donate whatever “feels good.” The suggested price is three dollars, says President Keith Rentler, but “we’ve accepted as little as 75 cents and as much as $20,” Rentler said.
Rentler said they have never had a customer refuse to pay at all, and he hopes the situation never arises.
“Honestly I don’t know how I’d handle that situation,” Rentler mused. “ I’d probably just be like ‘Oh ok,’ and walk away.”
I certainly do not recommend trying to mooch a free sandwich off of a charity organization, but FeelGood is something to keep in mind if you’re hungry late on a Friday night and don’t want to use $8 of Flex at Late Night.
Saturday and Sunday’s meals were challenging. Campus organizations assume students have weekend plans, so few host events on those days. Leftover pizza and frozen fridge food can only take a person so far, so I broke down and used a meal swipe at Towers for lunch on Saturday.
Malcolm Butler’s Super Bowl-winning goal-line interception was epic
to behold, and was even more enjoyable when combined with the Nitespot’s game day free munchies. Pulled pork, wings, subs and mac n’ cheese were delicious but went quickly.
By sifting through my inbox, I found an old email for Monday night trivia at the Red Ring. Reading the fine print revealed that free appetizer coupons were available in the Center for Student Involvement. These were truly FREE vouchers — not buy a meal, get a free appetizer or any gimmick like that. And I could pick up more than one, which meant bringing a group of friends to the Red Ring and making a feast of soft pretzels, wings, and buffalo chicken dip with pita. The Red Ring probably has the nicest food on campus, and those appetizers range between $7 and $9 each, so enjoying them for nothing was quite a bargain.
By taking thrifty-eating to the extreme, I learned that Duquesne’s campus is a wealth of free food for anyone willing to look for it. “Advice and a Slice,” “Share a Meal, Share Your Faith” and “Commuter PB&J Wednesdays” are just a few examples of the many campus events that incorporate food. Each event has the added benefit of getting you out of your room and into a situation where you can be an active member of Duquesne’s community. So I encourage students to go out and save some meal swipes! You might just find that you’re becoming more involved with your school along the way.