Forty Acres Fast leads to new Earn Your Orange program

Connor Hughes

Stumbling into the lobby of Carothers Dormitory, I was light-headed from exhaustion and my stomach was turning into knots. 

In the past six hours, I had only scarfed down a bag of Doritos, and the desperation to find sustenance displaced all concerns for my papers, meetings and safety. Luckily, lying lonely alongside the trash can, an empty jar of Nutella offered a glimmer of hope. I opened and inspected the inside of the container which still had lumps of chocolate spread on the bottom. 

Without hesitation, I plunged my bare fingers into the jar. 

As I sat in the lobby with my back against the trash can, scraping globs of chocolate into my mouth and pondering all of the horrible things this mysterious jar possibly encountered, I realized I had hit rock bottom.

This whole situation began the night my two friends and I decided to attempt what we deemed “the Forty Acres Fast.” Offering both a challenge and spontaneity, the fast was a week-long commitment during which we were neither to purchase food nor consume any previously acquired sustenance. We limited ourselves to the free food offered at student organization meetings.

While the first couple of days were manageable, the latter part of the week had our minds and bodies on the struggle bus. Based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we were surviving meal-to-meal — which mostly meant no breakfast, pizza for lunch or pizza for dinner. We scoured Know Events and implemented a group text dedicated to our mission, but the best resources of intel were our informed friends, who never missed an opportunity to “accidentally” drop crackers or candy on the floor to test our commitment. 

Whether we were invited to a Voices Against Violence discussion to define our concept of masculinity to 40 other students or mingling with computer science professors at a fajita buffet, our Forty Acres Fast pushed us into meetings and lectures that were both foreign to us and nearly void of other students.

The biggest challenge, aside from finding food, was definitely dealing with poor nutrition. Cookies and greasy pizza could only carry us for a couple days before we became lethargic. In fact, the midnight trek up the hill on 24th Street became a sweaty, draining mountain. 

Rolling out of bed on a barren Wednesday morning, I realized that if I wanted to remain sane I had to get some greens. Fortunately, a ray of light poked through the clouds of statuses and photos in the form of a Facebook event — the two-mile Nike Grub Run. Panting and wobbling the two miles along the sidewalks of campus, we encountered several onlookers who snickered at our dying gasps for air. But the tomato, lettuce and onion sandwich waiting at the end of the run held the priceless vitamins ensuring our survival. 

Considering that there were a limited number of sandwiches and pizza was the only option for slower runners, the fight-or-flight adrenaline propelled us to the cherished Jimmy John’s sandwiches. That evening we devoured the vegetable plate at Tejas Coffee and, to the horror of an economics graduate student, shoveled in pounds of roast beef and strawberries at a Friday afternoon fellowship lunch. 

Even though the idea stemmed from a whimsical challenge, the Forty Acres Fast highlighted the under-utilized resources around campus. My friends and I have teamed up with the Office of the Dean of Students to spearhead the Earn Your Orange program, an initiative that will allow students to earn honorary certificates for attendance at University events within a specific area. For example, a student could earn a certificate in leadership by attending the annual Texas Leadership Summit and other similarly grouped events. 

Since the fast, I have eaten at Kinsolvoing Dormitory a couple of times, and while I will temporarily avoid the pizza line, spinach lasagna has never tasted so heavenly.