OPINION: Reliance On Food Makes Sub-Free Events Inaccessible

Graphic by Cassie Wang

I’m someone who has always had a problem with eating in public. I eat more than the average person because of my body size. I do not always eat enough vegetables or the healthiest food. And sometimes, I feel insecure about what I eat when coupled with my lack of exercise.

I’m also not super into drinking or partying. In the past, I have wanted to attend Scripps College’s substance-free events, but there, I was faced with every single unhealthy snack I could think of. At events designed to destress, I felt more stressed because all I saw were foods that I loved, but were not kind to my body.

As a Peer Mentor last year, we struggled to get people to come to substance-free events that we hosted; unlimited free snacks were our principal method of appeal. We had crafts and activities available like coloring pages, Mario Kart, board games, and wreath making, but the free and usually delicious foods were why people came.  

While substance-free events are important for everyone at Scripps to have a place in the community, they fall short by not accounting for those who want to destress in other ways besides eating, such as going on a walk, having a conversation with a friend, journaling, listening to music, and watching TV.

Even though there are alternative activities, eating is the primary one at these events. That runs the risk of making people more uncomfortable than they should be.

I’m all for relaxing. School at the 5Cs is academically rigorous, and it is hard to recognize when to take a break while I always feel like I could be studying more. At Scripps and the 5Cs as a whole, I constantly feel like I have so much more to learn, which is both a blessing and a curse. I think I might like relaxing too much, to the detriment of my physical fitness level.

Scripps always has so many events every week to attend, probably too many. Every event email we receive on Sundays and Wednesdays lists cool talks, weekend parties, and multiple substance-free events put on by different clubs.

There are a lot of similar choices. Activities Team or A-Team, provides substance-free events like Wonderfest and trips to Dodgers games or beach bonfires for Scripps students; Scripps Associated Students, which hosts Spring Fling and a series of mostly substance-free events; and New Student Program, which hosted a substance-free event every Saturday last year. The amount of choices can seem overwhelming.

For one thing, the timing of substance-free events needs to change in order to make people want to go.

There are other organizations at Scripps like Scripps360, a transitional experience for first-years, and other residence hall related programming that seek to create a welcoming environment for Scripps students in a way that does not involve alcohol. The main tactic, providing a surplus of food, is inviting to some, but marginalizing to others, particularly those with eating disorders, diet allergies, and food intolerances.

We always had vegan and gluten free options available, and put an email at the bottom of Facebook events if anyone had any access needs but still wanted to come. However, the vegan and gluten free options were mostly hummus, vegetables, popcorn, and fruit, which are all delicious but not as exciting as fondue or glazed donuts.  

Our events, as New Student Program mentors, were always set from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., which is right after dinner and not necessarily the time to eat a lot of snacks. Even though I was in charge of putting them on, they felt a lot like forced bonding events despite our efforts to make them the opposite — and not real, organic ways for people to make friends and enjoy being together.

We often also bought so much food, more than we ever needed because not that many people came to our events. We had to carve out a solid amount of time to go to Costco and buy food in bulk. The amount we had contributed to overeating and having leftovers which, I felt, was wasteful. We could have done a better job evaluating how many people realistically came to each event, and how much food we needed to buy from there.   

I don’t regret being a Peer Mentor because I learned a lot about myself and the 5Cs, and thought that mentoring first-years was incredibly rewarding. At the same time, I think that the program’s purpose should be readjusted to think more of community events that revolve around something other than food.

Jo Nordhoff-Beard SC ’19 is an English major from Seattle. She misses The Hills, obsesses over different pens, and loves avocados.