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Why do Students Buy so Many Oreos and Pringles While Traveling?
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Why do Students Buy so Many Oreos and Pringles While Traveling?

The questions have plagued us for years:

Would the global economy survive if students stopped buying snacks?

Why Pringles and Oreos?

Do they eat these brands at home, or only way out in the remote villages where we work?

Does Δ = Oreos when:

Δ = basal metabolic rate [x*student wt + y*height – z*years] + traveling metabolic rate [-(excitement quotient (x*student wt + y*height – z*years))]

As educators, we are constantly encouraging our students to try local snacks, eat like locals, fill up on fruit to recalibrate their bellies, and avoid bringing food into their rooms to keep the bugs at bay. We do this in the hopes that they will enjoy the little things that we love about our home or host cultures, that they that they try to live like a local in even the little ways, and that they push their boundaries even a little (read: taking a bite of an unknown fruit is akin to bungee jumping in its own tiny way, on the “grit” scale).

At some point, we have to come to terms with this as a lasting phenomenon, that as much as we encourage them to “eat local” and be healthy, they’re going to gravitate to snacks they know, and that the marketing teams at these multinational brands are excellent at their jobs. So from an organization that’s great at cautious optimism, let’s give them a silver lining:

1. It supports local businesses. We shop, whenever possible at locally-owned business and give our students the chance to buy snacks from vetted local vendors, like corner stores or independent snack vendors. This spreads out the economic impact we can have in a community with a product that’s already on the shelves (name a country that doesn’t sell Oreos—they’re vegan!).

2. It gives them a dose of familiarity in a place where their senses are overwhelmed. Sometimes a little chatting and junk food are good for the soul, and since we’re encouraging them to unplug from home and focus on the moment, it’s something they can do as a shared and communal experience.

3. They know what they’re doing. They’ve contributed to our group discussions about responsible tourism, about how communities are affected by the influx of foreign dollars, and the local remedies for common health blips (papaya for constipation! Salty snacks help you retain water! Sugar is dehydrating!) and they’re making informed decisions.

We’ll continue to do what we do during programs, encouraging students to explore with all of their senses and within a controlled environment. Our Program Leaders will continue to share their experiences with students about what they love about travel and about the place they’re exploring. And when a new hyper-local flavor of chips hits the market, we’ll be pretty excited along with them.

Click below to learn more about how to customize the right program for you and your snacking students.

About the Author

Lauren DeAngelis Alvarez

Director of School Partnerships

Lauren brings experience from across Rustic Pathways’ sales and operations, including as our Strategic Partnerships Manager and USA Country Director. She lives between two Caribbean cities—New Orleans and Santo Domingo—and spends time by the ocean in New England where she grew up. She is a Temple University alumnus and non-fiction reader. You can usually find her hosting unexpected parties, exploring cities, or hiking the bayous with her family.