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Surviving in the Stanford food desert


Author’s Note: After reading criticism of this article (and particularly its title), I’ve realized that my failure to achieve the intent of this piece – an entirely satirical examination of campus-wide closings on Sundays, based on real events only in the sense that these closings do occur – hurt members of the Stanford community and for that I deeply and sincerely apologize. I particularly want to apologize for my misguided use of the phrase “food desert” in this article’s title. Analogizing Stanford’s Sunday closings to something as grave as a food desert, even in the context of satire, was ignorant and unacceptable. I am grateful to my peers who brought this mistake to my attention and I sincerely encourage anyone who felt hurt or uncomfortable on account of this piece to reach out to me via email.


I’m blinded by a ray of sunlight as I peer out from the dark warmth of my comforter for the first time in twelve hours. I rub my eyes with the back of my hand before feeling between the sheets, grasping at fistfuls of purple cotton for a solid half-minute and then landing on the sleek exterior of my phone. Squinting and contact-less, I can barely make out the LED time display on my phone’s lock screen: 2:11 p.m.


I can feel my tongue on the roof of my mouth, dry and sandpapery. My stomach makes a sound like an engine turning over. It’s Sunday afternoon, and I am famished.


Once I pop the gift of sight into my eyes via a couple of contact lenses and pull on my nicest sweats, I head downstairs for my go-to Stern brunch: oatmeal drowned in peanut butter and a salad bowl full of cereal. I make it halfway through the door conjoining the lounge and the dining area before I realize that the dining hall is closed.


No biggie, I think, I’ll just head across the street to Arillaga, savior of late sleepers.


Not so, apparently, for those who prefer to join the land of the living after 2 p.m. on the weekend. A quick scroll through R&DE’s Dining Hall Hours page confirms my fears: there are no dining halls serving up waffles and omelettes – or brunch foods of any variety – in the mid-afternoon.


But what are Meal Plan dollars for, if not to bless us with what our residential dining halls can’t? Miraculously, I realize that I have not yet drained my winter quarter balance quite yet, and my stomach calms momentarily at the thought of tofu spring rolls from Munger or one of Olive’s grilled flatbreads. But an instinct to honor my last remaining New Year’s resolution not to make the same mistake twice proves devastating when I check the hours of my favorite retail cafés in advance, only to find that every single one is closed.


Frustrated that my Meal Plan Dollars are no good until 5 p.m., when TAP re-opens, I weigh my remaining options. I could eat the banana I smuggled out of Stern after Friday’s dinner, though that’s unlikely to tide me over until it’s time to feast on FloMo’s Indian display. I could raid the Twain kitchenette and, if I’m lucky, scrounge together a couple of slices of bread and some peanut butter. I could possibly hold off on real food until dinner if my Starbucks gift card has somehow reserved a great enough balance to pay for my grande skinny mocha (extra pump, almond milk, no whip) but that’s unlikely – the almond milk charge would probably tip the scale.


Maintaining too much pride – despite my howling stomach – to pay real money for a glorified hot chocolate, and saddened to learn that Panda Express offers exactly zero vegan options, I resign myself to what appears to be my only practical option: a Subway sandwich (and the banana from home) will have to do. Even Ike’s, whose Love Triangle sub has seen me through all of life’s ups and downs since I arrived at Stanford, has nothing for me on Sunday afternoon.


So I trudge back to my dorm room, Veggie Delite in hand, and as I force down some limp spinach and altogether too much mustard, I take my phone back out to set an alarm for 11:30 a.m. next Sunday morning.


Contact Jackie O’Neil at jroneil ‘at’ 

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Jackie O'Neil '21 is The Daily's Vol. 259 staff development director and the former executive editor for Vol. 258 and managing editor of The Grind for Vols. 255 and 256. She's a Richmond, Virginia native studying political science, psychology and ethics. Contact her at joneil 'at'