Column: The brown bag people

By Gus Bode

There she goes. Dashing up the staircase in an attempt to hide her monstrous burden. Cutting corners and ducking behind walls to hide from possible classmates. The load she carries is not only a bit heavy; it is bulky, which is the worst of her problems. Almost made it – only a few more steps before she can put down her load. Oh no! That kid from math class! Now he knows!

What is she trying to hide? Her lunch box, of course.

With the rising cost of tuition and gas prices, some people, including myself, have resorted to brown bagging it over ordering fast food. A growing sect of students are taking coolers to school instead of ordering food at McDonald’s.


I have packed a lunch since the day I started attending college. I remember locating the one and only microwave in John A. Logan College; I was absolutely thrilled. When I got to SIU, I again packed a lunch. This time, the cafeteria was bigger, and I was even more jealous of the students who ate there. But this semester, I had a different look at the lunch lines in the Student Center. The one time that I ate out for lunch, I had the choice between a long line at McDonalds, an expensive salad, dried noodles or boxed potatoes. Needless to say, the next day I remembered to bring my lunch.

What are the benefits of brown bagging it?

The most practical reason for students to pack their lunch instead of buy it is the cost. True, you have to pay either way. But the cost of a can of your favorite veggie and a loaf of bread is less expensive than a Big Mac, and it makes more than a single meal.

Another plus is getting to choose your own food. Usually, I pack leftovers. I live at home with my family. My mom does the cooking, and there is usually plenty of extra food to go around.

This semester, both my younger brother and I are in college, so Mom has started taking orders for lunch items to buy from Kroger and Schnucks. Even if you don’t have a parent to pick up food for you, you could go with your roommate or friends and share the cost and the leftover food.

A final reason to pack a lunch is to eat healthy. My leftover spaghetti has to be healthier than French fries – and more filling, too. Plus, I know exactly who cooked my food and what they put in it.

When you pack your lunches, you develop an eye for small boxes with electrical cords. So far, I have located microwaves in every building that I have classes in. Usually, if there is a study area, there is a microwave – who’d have thought it? One downside to this study area microwave is that you may have to fight for microwave space against a hungry bunch of faculty and grad students. And they already have a set pecking order!


Once you finish fighting over the microwave, you get to know the people that make up the inner circle of your department. I have met more people over the Faner microwave than I ever could have in a classroom. Their reaction to me, at first, is always the same – “Who are you? I’ve never seen you before.” The next statement is “So, you’re the one who always carries the kitchen sink to school every day.” Yep, that’s me.

The next time you see a person with a huge cooler walking down the hall, remember to ask, “What’s for lunch?” And don’t be afraid to pack your own. A final word of caution: don’t let your food blow up in the microwave.