Columbia Students Steal Nutella And The NYT Thinks It’s The Onion

feature image via shutterstock

Stop what you’re doing right now and listen up because I have some seriously important LIFE-CHANGING NEWS to inform you about. Please sit down and take a deep breath, because what I’m about to tell you is shocking.

Columbia University college students have been stealing Nutella. From their very own dining halls! THE HORROR.

nutella lady orgasm

to be honest i’m more horrified that someone made this lady pose like this than i am about anything i’m writing about right now ya know?
via shutterstock

No I’m totally kidding, obviously I’m not horrified, I’m jealous! Back in the day when I went to New York University, we never got Nutella in the dining halls. I totally would have “stolen” it were it available, if by steal you mean “put some in a tupperware and then put the tupperware in my bag and remove it from the dining hall so I can enjoy the delicious chocolatey hazelnut spread at my leisure in bed later while I surf Tumblr.” I mean, doesn’t everyone do that with all dining hall food? Did I procure food the wrong way during my entire university experience? Oops.

The thing that makes this news so delicious, in fact, is not the meat (err, nuts?) of the tale, but the way we here at Autostraddle dot com found out about it. The New York Times, bastion of serious journalism and annoying trend pieces about humans in their twenties, decided to take a page from The Onion slash Gawker slash Autostraddle dot com and report on this news with a sense of humor! They took the whole story seriously, sure, and got quotes and facts and all that good journalismy stuff they accuse us bloggers of ignoring, but they also decided to join in the fun and utilize snark! Amidst their careful reporting, I detected a level of mocking and eye rolling that honestly rivaled Gawker’s own take on the issue.

Let’s peruse a few choice quotes from the story while admiring the bizarre stock photos that pop up when you search “Nutella.”

Last month one of Columbia’s undergraduate dining halls began serving Nutella every day, not just in crepes on weekends. For the uninitiated, Nutella is a creamier-than-peanut-butter, chocolate hazelnut spread from Italy that a college student might eat a whole jar of in a single sitting when the pressure is on.

The problem was that the Columbia students went through jars and jars of Nutella — at least 100 pounds a day, according to a freshman member of the Columbia College Student Council who had urged the university’s Dining Services operation to provide it in the first place. Apparently they were not just eating it in the dining hall. They were spiriting it away in soup containers and other receptacles, to be eaten later.


seriously stock photos for "nutella" are the weirdest

seriously stock photos for “nutella” are the weirdest
via shutterstock

It was clear that Nutella was not the only thing that was disappearing from the dining halls at Columbia. Of 11 students questioned on the campus on Wednesday, all confessed to having spirited away loaves of bread and bottles of ketchup, not to mention containers of milk and pieces of fruit. But while those 11 said they had never walked out with extra Nutella, others had firsthand stories from the Nutella wars up close. Kathryn Thayer, a senior, said her time as a resident assistant in a dorm had included women “complaining about their roommates’ finishing their Nutella jars.”

I’m impressed that the NYT questioned 11 students. I personally texted my friend who graduated from Columbia to ask what he thought about Nutellagate but he didn’t respond so I just ate some chocolate peanut butter instead and wished it was Nutella. I’m relieved to see other students have taken pieces of fruit from their dining halls (whew, turns out I was eating food right during college after all!) and am positively cackling over the phrase “Nutella wars.” Can we start a band called “The Nutella Wars”? Please? I’ll play triangle.

The brouhaha went public on Feb. 22…

BROUHAHA. Alternatively our band name could be Brouhaha. The Nutella Brouhaha?

this girl kinda looks like jessica biel (yes/no/maybe?) and is eating nutella the way i like to do it, right out of the jar

this girl kinda looks like jessica biel (yes/no/maybe?) and is eating nutella the way i like to do it, right out of the jar with a spoon
via shutterstock

Mr. Bailinson [the freshman member of the Columbia College Student Council], who said he liked to spread Nutella on sandwiches, had his own explanation for why the Nutella issue had caught on.

“It combines three things people at Columbia love: People love Nutella, people love complaining about the dining halls and people feel there’s a problem with how the administration handles things,” he said. “This Nutella situation is a perfect storm of all these interests coming together.”

If you hated my previous suggestions for band names what about This Nutella Situation or A Perfect Nutella Storm?

It seems that there’s some confusion about how bad this Nutella theft situation really is, how much money it is actually costing the university, how much Nutella Columbia students are really consuming and what will happen next. But I think we can all see the seriousness with which this must be taken. And I think we all know what needs to happen next.

We need to talk about what food you most wish you could steal from a university’s dining hall in a soup container or other receptacle.

My friends and I used to steal forks a lot to make weird pokey dangerous bracelets because we were weirdos (sorry, NYU!) but I’ve looked deep inside my soul and, upon reflection, here’s a short list of foods I would absolutely die to be able to eat for free, or more accurately for the insane amounts of money you need to spend to obtain a university meal plan.

1. Vanilla tea
2. Grilled cheese
3. Peanut butter
4. Baby corn
5. Granola
6. Avocados
7. The chocolate chip cookies I used to microwave in Hayden Hall my freshman year. Were they only so delicious because I was usually drunk while eating them? The world may never know.

Help me add to my list, or yell at me for being insensitive to Columbia’s budget and tell me that stealing is bad no matter what, even if you’re just innocently spiriting some Nutella out of a private university’s dining hall to eat in your bedroom in your underwear*.

*BOOM, yes I did just tie this whole ridiculous post into Underwear Week. Because I care about you.

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Vanessa is a writer, a teacher, and the community editor at Autostraddle. Very hot, very fun, very weird. Find her on twitter and instagram.

Vanessa has written 404 articles for us.


  1. Dammit this is the second time I’ve heard about this article today! I can’t resist the (legally bought) jar of Nutella calling my name from the cabinet anymore…

  2. Vanessa, I hate to say it, but I’m judging you pretty hard about the Baby Corn. Baby Corn is creepy. But yes to all other things on that list, plus the entire bunches of bananas that used to go in my bag when I was a student.

    • judge away, you can’t stop my love for baby corn! on days when nyu’s dining halls were out of baby corn i was genuinely less happy than the days when it was available in abundance.


      • I just associate baby corn (and baby carrots) with me being about 6 and pretending to be a giant whenever I ate them. I would eat baby corn like a full sized cob of corn.

  3. you guys, the Columbia nutella story only convinced me that I’d made the right choice with my early decision application. in my current (boarding) school, I’ve awoken to one of my roommate literally throttling me because she wanted the nutella I keep for our house. clearly, acclimatizing to college life won’t be too big of a leap.

  4. Yeah, I actually was a Nutella bandit at the NJ college I attended before transferring to NYU after my sophomore year . . .

    I’d like to take the opportunity now to apologize to my roommate in case she is out there reading these stories and relating a little too closely: Daniela, I am sorry for repeatedly finishing off your jars of Nutella. I had never experienced anything like it before and was in a bad way and just couldn’t help myself.

    Whew! I feel better now. I have been carrying that guilt around for the last 15 years.

    • this is hilarious (not that you were in a bad way of course but i hope things are better now) and i hope daniela was able to find this comment somehow.

  5. I really only ever took oranges and dried cranberries from my dining hall, but I also frequently helped my friend steal utensils, plates, and cups. She took the forks because she used them as paint brushes, and she took everything else because why the hell not? When we left we had to walk down a flight of stairs and the stuff clinked together all the way down. We were really shitty thieves.
    At the end of the year they actually had to send out a university wide e-mail (and an announcement in the newspaper) asking that anyone who “removed” anything from the dining hall to please return it.

  6. did someone say fake vaguely political nutella band names?? here you go:

    nutella collective
    nutella kill
    broken nutella scene
    taking back nutella
    nutella power
    this nutella is a pipe bomb
    …and you will know us by the trail of the empty nutella containers
    the nutella! team
    nutella brigade
    the nutella underground

    • yo (la) tengo nutella
      godspeed you! nutella emperor
      nutella fighters
      tegan and nutella
      nutella cab for cutie
      florence + the nutella

      (when you type “nutella” enough times, it begins to look misspelled…)

      • Nutella Doubt
        Nutella and Sons
        Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Nutella
        The Nutella Keys (this is my computer all the time)
        Neutral Nutella Hotel
        Tears for Nutella
        Freelance Nutellas
        Old Crow Nutella Show
        Nutella and Wine
        Bon Nutella
        Jimmy Eat Nutella
        Nutella Obscura
        Tilly and the Nutella
        The Airborne Nutella Event

        okay really nothing is as good as “…and you will know us by the trail of the empty nutella containers.” :D

  7. All these pictures of gorgeous women eating nutella…..
    I’m bringing nutella to a-camp.

  8. This is amazing. For several reasons:

    1) My dining hall at university never had Nutella. So now I’m super jealous of Columbia students.
    2) Instead of stealing Nutella from my dining hall, I frequently purchased Nutella to eat in my room, with a spoon, of course.
    3) I resorted instead to stealing bread and melba toast and crackers from the dining hall to spread my legally-purchased Nutella on.
    4) I also stole a lot of fruit. I could never steal any of the good stuff because the administration was aware of theft and so there were no bottled or canned drinks, and nothing in packages.
    5) The biggest theft problem was cutlery, cups, and plates. Students finishing their first year and moving out of residence into their own homes off-campus would steal kitchen supplies for their new home in their last weeks of first year.
    6) I personally stole a lot of cutlery, both for my own off-campus house, and for props for a play that I worked on in my second year.
    7) In second year I moved in with a friend who was allergic to hazelnuts, so I could never eat Nutella in our house. I had to eat Nutella at a friend’s house. It was a very difficult year for me.

  9. We didn’t take too much food when I was in college (clearly, a huge mistake), but most of us did end up with entire sets of dishes and silverware. To the point where, at the end of every semester, the school would advertise: “Bring back your cafeteria dishes for free cookies!”

    It didn’t work. We just stole the cookies.

    P.S. not food related, but steal TOILET PAPER. My university would leave packages and packages of completely wrapped toilet paper in the bathrooms of the buildings. Big mistake.

    • YES OMG. when i was preparing to leave campus life for the real A.D.U.L.T. off-campus house renting life, my roommate and i stocked piled toilet paper from our campus in our dorm room for months until we moved out. it is arguably one of the better decisions i’ve made in college.

  10. I always took coffee cups full of those chocolate covered expresso beans from the coffee bar. About as good as Adderall for those all night study sessions.

  11. The Nutella only came out during study week in my university dining hall. I can’t recall ever taking any away with me, but we would just sit around the table until the jar was empty and avoid going back to the library. Some excellent conversations are produced out of sleep deprivation and a large jar of nutella.

  12. The “steal cutlery”-situation reminds me of a couple of years back when the Nobel Prize banquet-organizers sent out a call to people who had been to the banquet because there was so much tableware missing. They instituted a sort of tableware amnesty and said they wouldn’t do anything if you just returned the stuff.
    They expected most of the stuff to be returned from the students who get to go to the dinner, but it turns out people are really paranoid about these students and watch them really well (for good reason, according to your stories ^^). Apparently, most of the stuff was returned from actual fancy people, like prize laureates and other dignitaries.
    Usually people would steal the coffee spoons (they’re a good size) but someone stole a water carafe. I kid you not. I’m still wondering how they got it out of the building.

    • this is only tangentially related but the water carafe reminded me: my freshman year a huge group of us went out to get drinks at one of the bars around campus that didn’t card and my friend got very very drunk. he then requested to take the rest of his pitcher of sangria with him to go but the waitress said no, obviously not, because of open container laws and laws against taking alcohol to go etc etc etc. so we all pay, leave, think nothing of it. we get back to our dorm and my friend PULLS THE PITCHER, STILL FILLED WITH SANGRIA, OUT FROM BEHIND HIS BACK.

      i have no clue how he did it. college was weird.

  13. Mini M&Ms. I stole the shit out of the mini M&Ms from the sundae bar. We were’t allowed to bring in backpacks so I would hide ziplock bags in my pockets.

  14. Nutellie Imbruglia with her hit single, “Torn (from the dining hall).”

    they later shortened the title for marketing purposes.

  15. Our meal plan wasn’t an all-you-can-eat sort of deal, it was just like a cafe and store, and we paid for what we chose. That probably allowed some of us to live cheaper, but there was no syphoning of goods for me. :(

  16. My dining hall once installed a hot chocolate machine. It got used so much they ended up having to only operate it at certain hours and then saying “if it runs out at 3pm that’s it, no more refills”.

  17. At Baylor, they had pretty much caught in to the no-packaging method of preventing us from stocking our dorms. But everybody had a fruit stash, and everyone on my hall was lifting Bigelow tea bags like they were currency. Most of us didn’t drink hot tea as teenagers, but now that we were serious adults with serious problems (Chem finals), we began drinking Orange Gardens and Constant Comment like it was our jobs.

  18. My freshman year I had a friend who lived off campus and would bring in the biggest pickle jar in the world to the dining hall. She would make us all get up multiple times to get bowls of vegetarian chilli to “squirrel away.” That jar plus a loaf of bread and bunch of bananas we grabbed on the way out and she was set for a week. It was so obvious, I don’t know how we never got caught.

  19. Avocados. They bring the creamy, and besides, granola is too personal,the sort of thing you make at home from your own blend. But avocados are democratic, all-purpose, honest and true.

    You can make a wicked bruschetta with avocados. Or an avocado milkshake that stops the world. Savory, sweet, avocados have it all.

    Sure beats the stack of plastic-wrap-tasting roast beef sandwiches and bulk salad I had to live on in rez. Yuck.

  20. Ohmygoodness, I took so so so much stuff from my college dining hall – fruits, whole vegetables, coffee cups full of butter and sugar and peanut butter, everything you can think of. I cooked many a dinner for my friends and many a birthday cake almost solely from my dining hall pillagings. My personal favorite was when I took a whole half gallon of milk in a glass milk jug I brought in. Good times.

  21. The dining hall staff at my school are really awesome. I’ve gotten to know a lot of them by name, and they really like me. We can pretty much take what we want as long as we bring our own containers as long as the supervising boss isn’t in. We have a “if you live on campus (and you do!) you MUST have the full, 21-meal-a-week plan.” so the school comes out ahead since practically nobody goes to breakfast.
    If you get to know the staff you can do things like wander into the kitchen and ask for a plastic container’s worth of olive oil, sandwich baggies of herbs, fill up containers of milk, etc. and as long as you’re respectful and don’t take a ridiculous amount of something, nobody will get mad. Seriously get to know the custodians/handy-people and dining staff. If you treat them well they’ll be more likely to help you out than if you’re a total jerk.

    Kill ’em with kindness, I say. (Just don’t think being a DecentHuman(TM) makes you special…)

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