Columns

2013.05.30 Food keeps finding its way into the news

on . Posted in Nowhere Road

By RICH FOLEY

Lately, I keep noticing news items with food involved in one way or another, like a recent New York Times article titled, “On A College Waiting List? Sending Cookies Isn’t Going to Help.” That may come as bad news for those hoping to impress a college admissions department.

The article tells of students who are “bombarding their dream schools with baked goods, family photos, craft projects depicting campus landmarks and dossiers of testimonials from civic and religious leaders,” just a few of the methods that desperate students are using to get off a waiting list and into a freshman class. A problem for the colleges is trying to determine who really wants to come to their college and who is just trying to have a fallback if a spot at their first choice doesn’t become available.

Vassar College actually tells students on their waiting list what to do to possibly help their case if openings occur (most colleges prefer a simple letter updating your academic record) and what’s going to hurt your case. You’d think that would be obvious, but not to some students.

Admissions officers report students who insult the college’s judgment, in some cases belittling the accomplishments of high school classmates who have already been accepted. Then there’s the old favorite of threatening to go over the admissions department’s head, virtually guaranteed to backfire. Showing up and demanding an interview almost never works, especially if you bring along a tent and threaten to camp outside the door until you get one.

One student wrote the admissions officer at her supposedly favorite school every day via email, also sending letters by postal mail and having alums write on her behalf. When a mere three spots opened up, she was chosen for one of them. When called with the good news, she informed the college she was going somewhere else.

A prospective student who sent the admissions counselor at Yale University a rather large number of cookies spelling out both the name of the institution and that of the counselor didn’t make the cut. Neither did another prospective Yale student’s parent who offered the counselor two free pizzas a week for a year.

Some parents are getting the message that food bribes won’t help. At another school, the father of a student on the waiting list offered the director of admissions free rotator cuff surgery. When informed that she didn’t need it, he changed the offer to carpal tunnel surgery. Unfortunately, she didn’t need that, either. With all those baked goods gifts, maybe he should have offered her lap band surgery.

The Times also recently had an article about an entrepreneur in Gaza City who has started a business importing food from a KFC franchise in Egypt to feed hungry customers in the Gaza Strip. The food goes on a road trip beginning with a ride in an Egyptian taxi, crossing an international border, transfer to a Gazan taxi, then delivery to the entrepreneur, who makes deliveries to his customers.

Kahlil Efrangi started out by forming a company to deliver food from Gazan restaurants, the first to offer such a service. Since the Gaza Strip has no name-brand fast food franchises, when Efrangi brought back a supply of KFC chicken from a trip to Egypt for some friends, their demand for more convinced him to expand his business.  

Efrangi limits his delivery menu to chicken pieces, french fries, cole slaw and apple pie. By sticking to a few basic items, Efrangi cuts down on the chances of receiving or delivering a wrong item, saying that allowing orders of sandwiches with various additions or deletions slows down the process and increases the possibility of mistakes.

Even with a barebones menu, the process of making phone calls to the restaurant, arranging for wire payments, getting permission from the government for the chicken transfer across the border, etc., means that the chicken takes four hours or more to arrive. By then, the chicken is no longer crunchy and the fries are soggy.

What’s more, Efrangi has to charge more than double what he pays the Egypt KFC to cover his expenses and make the effort worthwhile. Nevertheless, his customers are happy. And who knows? KFC chicken might be the perfect bribe to get your child into the University of Gaza.

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