I’m not sure if this story is common to the college experience, but after being having a terrible cold for the last two weeks, I had neither the time nor the money (because I kept missing work) to properly meal plan the past two weeks. Without even really thinking about it, I decided to finish off every single thing left in my pantry/fridge before trekking back out into the cold and crowded aisles of Aldi. The problem was that all I’ve had left in my fridge was an egg, half a cup of almond milk, and a slice of cheddar cheese.
And you know what? It didn’t turn out the best, but it also wasn’t the worst. It also taught me a lot about how important access to food is.
I’ll start with the bad stuff. First of all, not knowing where you are going to get your next meal from is incredibly stressful. This anxiety of not being able to have time to grab an affordable meal in between class/work/commuting adversely affected my ability to focus. My moodiness and agitation increased exponentially. Secondly, my energy decreased much faster throughout the week. Not eating well or drinking enough the night before made it harder for me to sleep, and therefore much harder to wake up early in the morning. I felt almost too nauseous and light-headed to get up every morning. Running late to my internship this morning, I ended up taking a $15 Uber to make up for the time. My head has hurt for a week, and it’s become apparent to me that self-care is literally so important to keeping me sane. Guess who ate a bag of rice for lunch today?
Good part? It’s funny how much more you notice and appreciate opportunities for free food when you are in need of it. My campus minister posted a link to a special food deal on the app Ritual. Doing a promotion called a “Dollar Food Fest” I got 5 days of FREE MEALS from this app, for the $10 credit I got from signing up for the app. I managed to get a free restaurant meal from the West Loop for a majority of my grocery-less week. On Sunday, my waitress gave me a free torta, just because. In addition to this, my roommate is in the cooking class at UIC, and every Thursday she brings back FOOD she cooks! Guess who’s been eating all of the leftover Asian noodle dishes? Me! Therefore, while I’ve been stressin’, I continue to make it through each day relatively nourished.
But honestly, this experience opened my eyes and increased my empathy for those who are currently experiencing hunger on a daily basis. Living in the city, without a car, and without steady employment, even without ALSO being a student, is an incredibly hard thing to do. It is hard to think straight when you are hungry, and I now realize with greater conviction how important food access is. If you are experiencing low access or barriers to getting a steady meal, one resource that UIC provides is the pop-up pantry. This pantry provides students free access to staple foods and is open every Wednesday and Thursday from 1-4pm. This is an underused resource but is so valuable. Please take care of your bodies, and you will take care of your mind.
Abigail Floresca is a junior majoring in criminology, law and justice with a minor in professional writing. Writing is how she connects, processes, expresses and relates to the rest of the world. Increasingly aware of the power of storytelling in bringing about change and reform, Abigail earnestly seeks to find a way to incorporate a perfect blend of writing and social work within the criminal justice system — she dreams of bringing about a positive change, one story at a time. At UIC, she is involved in campus ministry; conducts research with the criminology, law and justice department; interns with the Chicago Justice Project, and loves exploring new places downtown.