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Tasting Freedom

Cory Bernard | Wednesday, January 23, 2013

As I plopped down at my desk Wednesday afternoon, I checked my email for the gazillionth time in the past few hours. A new message caught my eye. “Hungry?” read the subject line. Why yes, Lisa Wenzel, assistant director of Notre Dame Food Services, I am hungry! How did you know?
Having just completed the 20-minute walk from DeBartolo Hall to my house on Notre Dame Avenue in the biting cold, I certainly had food on my mind. In fact, after my hands regained feeling, I was planning on whipping up something edible in my kitchen. But this email demanded my attention first. What if it was one of those emails typically reserved for finals weeks? You know, the one offering free snacks and games in South Dining Hall as a study break and excuse to get out of the dorm or the library. Maybe the weather had prompted some University charity.
I had already attended one lecture earlier in the week simply because it provided complimentary Subway, and I wouldn’t have thought twice about returning to campus for a free meal. Sadly, it was no such email.
Its body was short. It simply read, “Purchase a campus meal plan and enjoy delicious meals in our dining halls.” My thought process went as follows. “Umm, no. Don’t boss me around. But hey, I should probably view the PDF attachment really quick just to see what’s up.”
Among other things, the attachment said, “Select the meal plan option that best fits your budget.” My budget is pretty much the reason I’m always hungry, so I decided to entertain the email’s suggestion for a second.
For those unfamiliar, off-campus undergraduate meal plans vary widely. I can purchase 120 meals for one semester or 25 meals for one semester. I had done the math back in August and decided against purchasing a meal plan, but decided to examine the cost once more. At its cheapest, one meal in the dining hall costs $10.88. So $1,306 provides you with exactly 120 meals in the dining halls. Now wait just a minute!
Living off campus is a privilege, not a right. It takes sacrifice and commitment, especially in this weather. Food Services tried to break me at my weakest point, when I was most desperate. It tried to take from me more than $10.88 for every meal. It tried to take my independence.
Tuesday night, I ate a combined lunch/dinner of one frozen pizza. Wednesday night, my dinner consisted of the end of a bag of tortilla chips, some salsa left by a friend and some lunch meat about to go bad.
Did these meals taste like flank steak, pasta stir-fry or frozen yogurt? No.
They tasted like freedom.

Contact Cory Bernard at      
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    The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.