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The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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An attendee speaks during the “Be a Good Neighbor” Town Hall in the William Pitt Union on Thursday evening.
Panel discusses renters’ rights, red flags to look out for
By Marissa Kelley, Staff Writer • 12:08 am

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An attendee speaks during the “Be a Good Neighbor” Town Hall in the William Pitt Union on Thursday evening.
Panel discusses renters’ rights, red flags to look out for
By Marissa Kelley, Staff Writer • 12:08 am

Satire | The flawed food on Forbes

A+candlelit+meal+consisting+of+Cheez-Its%2C+Tostitos%2C+dry+spaghetti%2C+and+a+wrapped+string+cheese.
Bronco York | Staff Photographer
A candlelit meal consisting of Cheez-Its, Tostitos, dry spaghetti, and a wrapped string cheese.

As inflation keeps increasing the prices of everything from backpacks to slightly bigger backpacks, many Pitt students find themselves struggling to feed themselves. Some because they’re cooking novices, others because they’re unable to afford groceries. And while they could probably go to the Pitt Pantry, a resource “dedicated to ensuring that all members of the Pitt community have regular access to a balanced and nutritious diet,” some students are taking a different approach.

Michael Levins, for instance, a junior mechanical engineering major with a children’s lit certificate, is living off campus without a meal plan for the first time and has come up with some creative methods to beat the mealtime monotony. 

“Yeah, my name’s Michael Levins,” Levins inexplicably said, sitting down with me in the Panera on Forbes. “I come here a couple times a week. It used to just be a convenient place to study, but now I’ve got this caffeine problem. Or solution, am I right? Ha. Uh, but yeah, their charged lemonade apparently has twice as much caffeine as an energy drink, which I didn’t know when I first started getting them, so I’m just, uh, very energized. And the croissants here aren’t half bad either.” 

When asked about his go-to grocery items, Levins had this to say. “Go-to groceries? More like don’t go to groceries! Because I, uh, don’t go to the grocery store all that much. I don’t have a car and taking the bus to Target or Giant Eagle or whatever takes like an entire day, and I just don’t have the time to spare. And that’s before you take into account how hard it is to carry all your groceries for like an hour.” 

At this point, an employee at Panera called Michael’s name, prompting him to sprint up to the counter to get his croissant. 

“Sorry, I’ve just been burned before. And not just by the soup here, hey-o. Everybody’s named Michael these days, they’ll just take your food and run off with it. Here, let’s walk and talk.” He guided me out the door and onto Forbes, raising his voice so I could hear him over the cars. 

“Look, we’re in college, I’m on the go, I don’t have time to cook, so I just buy my food here every day. Yeah, it’s expensive sometimes, but I’m so in debt just going to school here, what’s another thirty or forty dollars a day? And it’s not like a meal plan at Pitt is all that affordable in comparison.” 

When asked how he manages to spend thirty to forty dollars a day, Levins broke down his daily spending. “Well it’s $11.80 at Dunkin for breakfast and coffee, then, I’m trying to save money so I don’t do lunch anymore, then dinner’s anywhere from $12-22, literally anywhere you go on or off Forbes, and then sometimes I’m walking back from class, it’s been a long day, and all I want is a s’mores cookie from Insomnia, which is $4.65, and all that’s before the tip. Oh, and Fuku’s $7.77 after the tip, I go there a lot too. Have you had their strawberry popping boba? It slaps AF,” Levins told me, finishing his croissant. 

He agreed to take me to his house and show me his kitchen situation. “Let’s stop by Side Aid first, I’m out of hand soap.” The inaccessibility to a grocery store seems to have blinded him to the sharp upcharge enforced at both Rite Aids on campus, where the going rate for something as plain as a pack of family sized Oreos is something like $8.50. 

Opening the door to a standard South O house, an aroma of a home cooked meal surprisingly emanated from the kitchen. “Oh, that’ll be one of my roommates. They’re always cooking stuff and making me feel inadequate in comparison,” Levins explained, inviting me in. 

After some explaining, his roommate Rick Davis agreed to be interviewed. “Yeah, I’ve got this mirepoix I made last week, and I’m making this coq au vin. I’m kinda new to cooking, it sounds way fancier than it is, believe you me.” 

At this, Levins grabbed my hand and yanked me outside, distressed. “I don’t wanna do the article, interview thingy anymore. Shut off your tape recorder.” The following is an approximation of what Levins said. 

He explained to me that if his parents had been rich, and loved him more, he’d know how to make “coco fin” as well, but they’re not, and they didn’t, which is why he’s a disaster racking up debt eating food just to sustain himself enough to get through the day. He then relayed that he tried buying groceries and cooking, but his major is so intensive that he never finds the time and everything goes bad in the fridge, so he stopped trying. He then asked if I think that makes him a bad person. Beyond that, washing dishes elicits a desire to, as he put it, “actually die,” so trying out a new recipe just to mess it up, and then have to eat gross tasting food, and then, after all that, have to do dishes, lowers his mental health so significantly that it really is healthier for him to just waste the money that he doesn’t even have, according to him. He then asked if I wanted to make out, so I left. 

Whether this student’s struggle is the outlier or the rule, I found myself relating to his plight. I, too, find trouble finding time to buy groceries and cook, with the pressure of school. I, too, am living off campus for the first time without a meal plan. I, too, would rather die than wash one single dish. And all these things culminate in me wasting money I don’t have to eat at yet another just-okay restaurant on Forbes. I don’t have a solution. This is a cry for help. And don’t just tell me to budget and meal prep — if it was that simple, I wouldn’t be having this issue. 

I don’t know. Maybe the sun will devour us soon. Or maybe capitalism will fall and everyone will finally have their Missouri cheese cave cheese allocated to them. We can dream. 

Alaina McCall writes things. They would rather be a lighthouse keeper than do whatever they’re doing now. You can reach them at [email protected] 

About the Contributor
Alaina McCall, Staff Columnist
Alaina McCall is an English Writing and Film Production double major. When they grow up, they would like to write sitcoms, but will probably settle for writing names on coffee cups. Feel free to slide in with your own jokes to [email protected]