GOOD
The Sobering Reason Harvard Students Are Stuffing Their Backpacks Full Of Food

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Prepping for a food desert doesn’t just happen in apocalyptic novels. It’s currently happening on the idyllic campus at Harvard University. In anticipation of the dining-services-worker strike that began last Wednesday, students were stuffing their backpacks full of whatever dining hall staples they could get their hands on—fruit, pastries, bagels, granola bars—in addition to Tupperware containers packed with hot meals from the buffet.


They had plenty of time to prepare, The Harvard Crimson reports, because the Harvard University Dining Services union announced its plan to strike back in September. In fact, the Crimson published a survival guide the day before the strike was set to begin. But what’s really behind all this doomsday prepping? Following months of failing negotiations with school administrators, HUDS, which protects the rights of 750 dining services workers, decided to do something more drastic to secure higher wages and more affordable healthcare.

Specifically, HUDS members seek to work year-round and be paid appropriately for that additional work. Currently, Harvard’s food service employees make an average of $34,000 a year and are laid off during the summer months when few students are on campus. Union spokesperson Tiffany Ten Eyck called for a $35,000 “minimum guaranteed salary” in addition to lower health care costs since the current rates account for about 10 percent of their annual incomes.

With no compromise struck, the strike continues, leaving thousands of students without access to consistent food and a meager interim dining hall workforce of temps, managers, and volunteers. While this may sound like a privileged problem to have, it’s worth noting that more than half of Harvard students attend the university on scholarship and one in five parents of Harvard students make less than a combined $65,000 a year. Without the school’s dining hall services, many students may be hard-pressed to find nourishing meals during the strike, and the longer it lasts, the more dire the situation could become.

As Virginia Woolf once said, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” It looks like Harvard administrators need to find a resolution quickly if they hope to sustain some of the country’s brightest young minds.

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