It takes a lot of food to keep 1500 dancers fed for 30 hours. With a budget of zero dollars, Food Committee co-chairs Amy Xu and Lindsay Barranco are responsible for keeping everyone in the tent well-nourished. NBN spoke with the Weinberg junior and Communication senior, respectively, about the committee. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
What exactly does the Food Committee do?
Amy: We have a committee of around 60 people. It’s the second largest committee behind [Dancer Relations]. During the year, we solicit to a lot of different restaurants and businesses and wholesale distributors because every single thing that we serve during DM and during all the events is all donated. We don’t pay for anything and we don’t have a budget for food.
They contact all of these places. Some of them are returning donors, some of them are new. And we say "Hey, we’re throwing this event in March." We have a food packet and we’ll go in person, call, email, whatever and say "Would you be interested in supporting our event by a monetary donation, like gift cards that we can use for food or the silent auction?"
Or if they would just like to give us food products. We go to a lot of places, it doesn’t matter what they offer. Bagels in the morning, we go to a lot of bagel stores in the morning and ask for day-of donations. Bennison’s and we do a lot of snack solicitation: fruit, vegetables, produce, all that kind of stuff.
When do you start preparing? How much food do you need?
Lindsay: The nature of the food industry is that a lot of times, no one can confirm a donation until maybe, a couple days before Dance Marathon. So of course we start planning, creating wish lists and ideal menus as soon as possible after DM is over because it’s based on feedback from the year before. But in terms of contacting distributors and restaurants, it’s not even worth it to start asking until the beginning of the fiscal year.
Amy: We make initial contacts in the Fall, just so they know that we’re interested. A lot of times they say "Can you contact us six to eight weeks before the event?" And then we’ll have committee members follow up with them. We like to let them know that we’re interested in them donating so that we don’t come out of the blue and they say "Oh, we can’t accept you. We don’t have the budget for you."
Lindsay: We basically feed 1500 people for 30 hours. In terms of quantity, a lot. It’s hard for us to even picture. We reserve the Louis Room in the week leading up to DM. We make a pantry in there and there’s so much food.
Amy: It’s just crazy. We have snacks after every single block for 1500 people. And we have meals and we have beverages.
How will you be spending the 30 hours?
Lindsay: Crying? Running around like chickens with our heads cut off?
Our committee is structured by subcommittee, so we break everyone into groups of 5 or 6. There’s a subcommittee leader for each one. Those leaders will also be block leaders. 10 subcommittee leaders, 10 blocks. They are in constant communication with us and we rely on them to prep the food.
We’re the overseeing eyes because we have a lot of our donors come and visit. We have to take them around the tent and show them where their donation is going, how they’re benefiting our organization and our beneficiary. We’re just making sure everything is going smoothly.
We also deal with a lot of the allergy things. When we have people leave the tent for certain dietary restrictions, we’ll be the point of contact.
How do you accommodate someone with a dietary restriction, allergy, etc.?
Amy: We definitely make sure to talk about it when asking for donations. We receive a list of people with dietary restrictions. People who are kosher, or vegan or vegetarian. We work with Hillel for kosher meats and we usually put up a slide telling people with certain restrictions to exit the tent. We’ll have a separate space for them and food for them to eat.
Last year, when they would serve peanut butter, we would call people with peanut allergies up and we would give them something else like fruit.
What can dancers look forward to eating during DM?
Amy: This year we are not serving peanut butter. In the past, we’ve done Ants on a Log and peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches, but we made the decision this year to substitute peanut butter.
Lindsay: We’re keeping a lot of the favorites like pizza, popsicles, all that good junk food. We are trying to make a more balanced, healthier menu so our goal is to provide more snacks of fruit. A lot of feedback we got from dancers last year was that there was not enough fruit, too many carbs. We’re trying to balance it out.