By Kyla Brinkley
“Hey, do you have a moment?”
As a student at the University of Georgia, when you hear this phrase while walking through Tate Plaza your first instinct is to ignore it and keep walking. You probably don’t have the time to listen to every detail of an organization’s next meeting or why you should sign up for their listserv. You’re probably just trying to get to class.
Unless, of course, they have food.
Pizza, candy, baked goods. You’ve probably seen it all at some point. Somehow, the allure of a free or cheap snack is an offer you can’t resist as a college student.Countless organizations take advantage of free or cheap goodies to attract students to meetings and other events.
Destiny Smith, a junior public relations major from Riverdale “tabled” with the UGA chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists on March 20. UGA NABJ sold slices of pizza for $1 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. that day. Smith explained that her organization chose to sell pizza because it is a “college food staple,” and it is easy for students to “grab on the go.” Smith also said that pizza was a good choice because it is easy to make a profit.
However, because cheap food is so attractive for many students, they often “grab and go” without taking the time to learn more about the organization that is offering the treat. “It was a fundraiser, so the main goal was to raise money,” Smith says. “Raising awareness is just a bonus.” For organizations that provide food for free, raising awareness is more of a priority.
Flora Patel, a sophomore international affairs and political science double major from Edison, New Jersey, worked on the DARE campaign for Student Government Association elections this year. DARE has been tabling “every other day for the past three weeks,” providing donuts and candy among other treats at popular locations around campus. Patel believes that giving out free food is effective because “it is a good way to put a smile on people’s faces so they remember you afterwards.”
“The one person who joins the organization or decides to vote is worth the 80 people who grab the food and go,” Patel says.
Even so, many organizations also include activities while tabling in order to encourage students to engage with its members. Patel says that the DARE campaign played dance music in order to engage with students, as did NABJ, according to Smith. “If they came to stop, they were dancing,” Smith says. “It would attract other bystanders, so they wanted to check it out.” Including music and games creates an awareness that cheap food only introduces.
“I love it. Who doesn't like free food?” says Jamia Kenan, a sophomore journalism major from Fayetteville. Kenan said that even if she goes to a table mainly for the food, she makes sure to ask what it’s for.
That question has allowed tablers like NABJ and DARE to gain more recognition in the long run.
Smith explained that many of the students she spoke with expressed an interest in attending NABJ’s next meeting, making the experience both useful and fun.
Next time you’re out and about on campus and are tempted with a free snack, stop for a minute and really listen to what the person handing you the food has to say. You might be surprised to find that you truly are interested in the group providing you with a treat.