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Venezuela on the Charles: Harvard students hoard cafeteria food ahead of dining strike

For those outside of Boston, you may not know that Harvard University Dining Services (HUDS) workers have been on an unprecedented strike since Wednesday over wage and healthcare demands.

Their cause has been described as pro-LGBTQ (seriously), and the student government has eased the mild discomfort of their picketing by authorizing $200 of donuts and coffee for the strikers.

But it’s throwing a non-edible wrench in the eating habits of ordinary Harvard students, who flooded Harvard Square eateries because they couldn’t use their own prepaid meal plans.

On the eve of the strike, The Washington Post reported, Cambridge resembled Caracas as students stripped the campus eateries of anything edible they could squirrel out:

Inside the dining halls at Harvard University, the students are prepping in apocalyptic fashion.

Backpacks are stuffed with apples and plates are stacked with brownies. Smuggled-in Tupperware bowls, slyly hidden beneath the table, are being filled with hot food from the cafeteria buffet. Mini fridges are overflowing. Freshmen have ordered Cup Noodles on Amazon — in bulk. …

“I understand it’s for legitimate purposes, but I’m worrying about midterms right now,” freshman Sofia Garcia told The Washington Post. “I don’t need to worry about where my food is coming from.”

MORE: Sordid Details from the Frontlines of a Student-Workers Union Strike

The Harvard Crimson even released a “survival guide” that encouraged students to go Darwin or go home (literally, to mommy and daddy):

You must forage for provisions in advance. To properly stock up, enter the dhall [sic] on Monday with a savage mindset, and proceed with your overt theft like nobody’s watching. With Tupperware poised, confidently ladle oatmeal, chili, and chowder. Fill designated containers to the brim with cookies and your cereal of choice. You’ll also want to load up on condiments to spice up those Nutrigrain bars that have been under your bed since move-in. An entire bottle of chocolate syrup and can of whipped cream should do the trick. Finish off by stuffing your backpack with 30 apples. Just squirrel those babies away, you could be in this for the long haul!

According to writer Lydia Cawley, Harvard students are paying $36 a day for meals they can’t use while the strike continues.

MORE: Grad student union contract includes right to be free of microaggressions

Workers told The Crimson pre-strike they saw “unusually large quantities of frozen food being brought into the dining halls,” suggesting a strategic stockpile:

[Union organizer Laquiesha Rainey elaborated,] “Things like stuffed peppers, mac and cheese, and soups are taking up so much space in the freezers that a lot of halls don’t have the space to hold the current menu items we need.”

The latest Crimson update reports no progress in ending the strike, which will continue over Columbus Day weekend:

The University has brought forth several health care proposals over the course of the past four months; Local 26 has rejected all of them. Harvard proposed the union enroll in an identical health plan to that Harvard negotiated with the University’s largest union, the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers. That plan eliminated deducibles [sic] while it increased copayments.

MORE: Meal-plan prices spike as cafeteria workers demand a union

This is all terribly amusing to the bros at Total Frat Move:

The mental image of kids lined up hundreds deep in front of a communal microwave to preheat Annie’s Organics mac & cheese is gold Jerry gold. I can’t wait for Harvard to overestimate the amount of frozen food they need, only for the strike to end next week and the school’s left with enough frozen food to keep a small village of subterranean Chilean miners satiated.

Follow The Crimson on Twitter to stay abreast of strike developments.

MORE: Black markets for condiments pop up thanks to Mrs. Obama

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” He co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon at Seattle Pacific University.