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In response to reports and TikToks of a Fyre Fest–like quarantine meal delivery situation at NYU, some students are receiving online donations from strangers.
Alexandra Mettler, a first-year undergrad, told BuzzFeed News she’s received “a couple hundred dollars” in Venmo payments since her recent TikToks have gone viral.
Over the past two days, students began posting videos online claiming that the school had either neglected to provide meals on time or at all, or that the food was insufficient, while quarantined. One student told BuzzFeed News on Thursday she had been mostly living off of granola bars.
“People on TikTok felt bad and sent me some money on Venmo, which I used to order food for myself and my suitemate,” Mettler said. “I am redistributing all the extra funds I receive to other students who are struggling.”
Two NYU students have since created a mutual funds document to help connect classmates soliciting donations and anyone who wants to give.
A spokesperson for the university responded to the widespread social media complaints by apologizing to the student body, but also directed blame to a third-party food vendor called Chartwells. NYU spokesperson John Beckman told BuzzFeed News in a statement Thursday that they are implementing changes, like adding more staff to the prep and delivery process. The school shared the statement publicly on Friday.
Several students told BuzzFeed News the school is dispersing $100 in gift cards for food deliveries.
However, according to these students, it seems the proposed changes have not been set in motion yet. Mettler said Thursday evening she received her dinner at 8 p.m., “and it was a single slice of gluten-free bread with some cold tofu and carrot slices.”
Two NYU students took matters into their own hands on Thursday by creating a mutual aid Google Doc where anyone with a nyu.edu email address could request money for additional food and groceries and provide their Venmo or CashApp accounts.
The creators, Olivia Sher and Noa Baron, told BuzzFeed News they aren’t quarantining on campus themselves, but when they heard about what was going on, they jumped to help.
“We heard about the situation from friends and on Twitter and could not stand idly by while our peers were being given incredibly inadequate meals,” said Baron, who first came up with the idea.
“We modeled it after the many mutual aid funds that came out throughout COVID-19,” Sher added.
The spreadsheet currently has 160 requests. Many comments from those seeking help say they’re simply “in need of food” and that “anything can help.” The requested sums range from $50 to $150.
Kitty Bailey, a third-year NYU student, told BuzzFeed News she’s received $100 so far between Venmo and CashApp.
“I felt the need to request money because my suitemates and I don’t have enough money to eat out every day and our dietary restrictions were not being met with the meals [we got], and by the time we received the meals, they were somewhat stale,” she said.
Bailey said she was delivered the same infamous watermelon chicken salad, except hers was warm.
Ultimately, these grassroots efforts are not “effective” in addressing the greater issue, said Bailey and others.
“I think the university should have more accommodating food options, as well as food that wouldn’t go bad if it sat out,” Bailey said. “I think anyone who had to get money from strangers should get the same amount from the school so that they can pay [their donors] back.”
Baron and Sher agree.
“I want to be clear…mutual aid is wonderful and I’m very happy to see so many people contributing, but mutual aid only exists because the institutions that are supposed to support us in the first place have failed,” Baron said. “NYU promised its students who live in housing meals, and they failed.”
“We want to see the school take responsibility as their statement mostly blamed Chartwells the dining company, and take immediate steps to address the problem,” Sher added.