By Isabella Darcy
Eating, a task that is supposed to be painless, has been difficult for some students at the College due to confusing standards when it comes to dining on campus. A straightforward guide on how to navigate meal swipes, meal points, meal equivalency and Campus Town Dollars is long overdue.
All students who live on campus are required to have a meal plan. Meal plans consist of meal swipes and/or Flex Points. One Flex Point is equivalent to $1 and may be used at any dining location on campus, while meal swipes may only be used at The Atrium at Eickhoff, as well as once per weekday, through meal equivalency, at any retail dining location that is not Fresh Pride Café, Sushi, 1855 Room, C-Store or any C-Store item sold at T-Dubs.
The Atrium at Eickhoff swipes and meal equivalency cannot be used more than once throughout a single meal period. There are three meal periods on weekdays. Breakfast is from 7 a.m. until 11 a.m. Lunch is from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Dinner is from 4 p.m. until 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and ends at 8 p.m. on Friday.
If a student attempts to use more than one swipe during a meal period, then they will be denied and required to wait until the next meal period or use an alternate payment method such as Flex Points or cash.
Freshman international studies major Jaylyn Ayres, like many students at the College, was unfamiliar with the meal period policy until it caused her trouble.
“I didn’t know how meal periods worked, and one time I went into Eick for dinner right after using a meal equivalency swipe, and my card was declined,” Ayres said.
Student Government Vice President and sophomore political science major Jared Williams worked with dining administrators at the College last semester and spoke to the Signal to resolve some dining-related misconceptions.
“A big thing that needs to be cleared up is that if you use your meal equivalency swipe, it does not take away from your Eickhoff swipes,” Williams said.
One meal equivalency swipe covers up to $8.50 of a purchase. If the purchase exceeds $8.50, then an alternate payment method must be used to pay the difference.
“Last semester, I had 15 swipes per week, but had to survive on snacks because I didn’t know how swipes worked since there was no layout of rules, and I didn’t want my card to be declined again,” Ayres said.
Some students would like to be able to use swipes at any time they please.
Freshman mechanical engineering major and dining services liaison for student government Leah Sklar said, “I wish that if you swiped in during one meal period, I wish you weren’t locked out for the rest of the meal period.”
Students with meal plans including swipes are eligible to use one meal equivalency swipe per weekday. Meal equivalency swipes can be used any time at select retail dining locations, except at T-Dubs, which only offers meal equivalency during Late Night Dining between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m.
Meal equivalency eligibility does not reset during the Late Night Dining period, and any swipe used after midnight counts towards the day that the period began.
There are some items which cannot be purchased using a Meal Equivalency swipe.
As stated on the College’s Dining Page, “meal equivalency swipes cannot include more than one bottled beverage, a small bag of chips, Simply to Go sandwiches and salads, desserts, Kosher & Vegan products and other specialty salads and sandwiches.”
Locations where meal equivalency can be used include The Library Café, Education Café, STEM Forum Café, T-Dubs, The Lions Den and Traditions.
“Points can go pretty fast, so meal equivalency was a way to almost give students extra points so they’re paying less at each purchase,” Williams said.
Students with meal plans can also save swipes and points by dining in Campus Town. At the beginning of each semester, all students with meal plans receive $100 in Campus Town Dollars.
Establishments which accept Campus Town Dollars include Frutta Bowls, Red Berry, Mexican Mariachi, Crepes & Churros D’France, Teamalaya Bubble Tea, Barnes & Noble Cafe, Jersey Mike’s, IndiGrill, Yummy Sushi and Blazin’ J’s.
Campus Town Dollars and meal equivalency have improved dining, but Williams and Sklar would like to see more initiatives pursued to make dining even better.
“I want to try to make changes because nutrition and dining here isn’t as good as I want it to be,” Sklar said.
Williams said that he has noticed long lines forming outside of Traditions since orders are being taken and distributed through the same window. He believes that implementing a second window may decrease crowding, and that it is an initiative worth pursuing.
“Some type of mobile ordering could be something that could cut down line waits, and cut down how students get frustrated when they have to wait in line for Traditions for a long time,” Williams said. “If they were able to place a mobile order in advance, that would be something I would really like to see.”
The Dining Services Committee meets on a bi-weekly basis to discuss dining at the College. Students with dining related ideas or concerns can attend meetings with the Dining Services Committee. Find the meeting schedule here.