Get most college graduates together 20 years after turning the tassel and the talk will invariably turn to memories of a favorite professor, a lost love, that time they got drunk at a party and ended up with a lamp shape on their head.
Oh, so I’m the only one, huh?
Most vivid of these memories will be talk of being hungry and the lengths one went to rectify that condition.
You’d have to go to extreme lengths to surpass those to which Dr. Ken Mask and his pals went while undergradding at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Mask, of Hamlet, is now a Radiologist and general concierge physician, but around 1982 he was a struggling, often hungry UNC undergrad.
They found sustenance, he said, at a restaurant that is now a Chapel Hill institution, Time Out. They’d go into the joint, renowned for its chicken biscuits and staying open 24/7, and ask for a bucket of the bones from which the meat was de-boned.
He doesn't remember who first asked for the bucket of bones or how it became "a thing." But a thing it is.
“I’m not presumptuous enough to think that we created that phenomenon,” Dr. Mask said, “but they say necessity is the mother of invention. When you’ve got $1.80 between four people, you have to get creative.”
Other UNC alums to whom I subsequently spoke also remembered the “bucket of bones” fondly.
Eddie Williams, founder of the restaurant and still its owner, told me that the bucket of bones – now known as a box of bones and still available – is still popular among his student clientele.
Hmm, I wonder if the restaurant is the inspiration for the classic love song Save the Bones for Henry Jones ‘Cos He Don’t Eat No Meat?
Thanks to a program initiated by Harris Teeter, students at five HBCUs won’t have to search for an all-night eatery willing to part with their discards cheaply. The grocery chain announced recently that it is partnering with the schools to stock and replenish their food pantries so students can focus more on changing the world – which, really, should be every college student’s goal - than getting rid of the wrinkles in their bellies.
The corporation is pledging $250,000 over five years to Johnson C. Smith University, North Carolina Central University, North Carolina A&T State University, Norfolk State University and Howard University. That comes out to $50,000 each.
In a press release, Harris Teeter spokesperson Paige Pauroso said “We want to ensure students have access to fresh and nutritious food, so they can concentrate on their education and well-being."
How big is the problem of food insecurity on college campuses?
A 2020 Hope Center survey of 195,000 college students revealed that 39 percent said it was a problem for them. I'm willing to bet my last pack of Ramen noodles - or three-for-a-dollar box of macaroni & cheese with the powdered cheese - that the real figure is higher than that.
What, you ask, is “food insecurity”?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines it as “the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.”
Hmm, is going to AA meetings socially acceptable?
Because that’s what my buddies and I did.
We, among other things, sold blood, attended church, wakes and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in our own search for nutritional sustenance – although it’s a stretch to call those dry, cake-y doughnuts the Atlanta AA served before meetings “nutritional.”
But “Thank you, Jesus – and Bill W. - for them” is all I can say.
Thank you, also, to Debra Saunders-White, the late chancellor at NCCU. She addressed the issue of hungry – food insecure – students on her campus at least five years ago and started the food pantry to which Harris Teeter is now contributing.
As a grown man – and not as a perpetually starved 20-year-old – I realize that AA has been a lifesaver for thousands of people suffering from addiction. To them, I’d like to apologize for eating their doughnuts.
It may have helped me, too, because I haven’t worn a lampshade on my head since then.