Meal plans restricted to where students live on campus
Amanda Cavoto—Arts & Entertainment Editor
A public university is what some college students look for affordability, flexibility, and individualized circumstances that would otherwise not be feasible in a private university. So why is this being compromised?
Specifically, I am talking about SCSU’s office of Residence Life and Chartwells Higher Ed, who give no alternative to non-kitchen residents and first-year students other than to purchase their unlimited meal plan do includes unlimited swipes to Connecticut Hall, two swipes a week at the Adanti Student Center, eight guest swipes per semester and $150 worth of “food loot,” which can be used to purchase on-campus food only, all for a grand total of $2,907 per year.
The first issue that comes to mind is the absolute deadlock are placed in for first-year students, who can come from various circumstances and locations that may not allow them to live anywhere but the residence halls. How come you can choose your housing, but you cannot choose your food options? It is frustrating to be trapped in that hefty financial obligation when you have never even experienced the dining areas before you are forced to sign a school-year long contract.
One could argue this “all or nothing” concept is also classist. Having every first-year student, some who may be on financial aid, obligated to pay this hefty fee, despite not even needing or wanting it, is a financial burden.
International students, who if they really have to live in these halls, have limited access to shelter outside of the dorms and may want to cook for themselves or seek other food options. Instead they are left with purchasing a sparsely used meal plan alongside the other additional outside food they want to purchase.
Moreover, ableism is being displayed in this mentality. Dietary restrictions are no joke, and more light has been shed on their validity within the last decade. With nearly 18 million Americans having a non-celiac gluten sensitivity, according to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness that number makes waves, and leaves people with the allergy to a very limited option at the food services on campus.
Sierra Agard, a nursing major who lives in gender-inclusive housing at West Campus, said that the unlimited meal plan for her is not practical.
“I honestly hate it. I barley ever use it because the food here isn’t that good and I try to eat as healthy as possible, and it’s hard to do that when you live on campus. But, since we’re spending so much on the meal plan it’s hard to be able to buy healthy stuff at the grocery store because it’s expensive,” Agard said. “And when I do glutenfree there’s not a lot of options so at that point it’s not even worth it for me to have a meal plan.”
Despite Conn Hall offering a gluten-free section for consumers, it is inaccessible unless a student arranges a meeting with a Conn Hall manager to verify their sensitivity or allergy to gluten only then will they be allowed access only through a Hoot Loot swipe at the locked door. That excludes students that just want to live a gluten free life because it is their right to choose what they consume, and make them fend for themselves and be forced pay for something they cannot even use.
SCSU students also range from being pescatarian, vegetarian, vegan, or other types of alternative lifestyles that the food on campus does not hone in on, leaving them as “second thought” meals, such as your typical salad bar that claims to be vegetarian-inclusive. As a vegetarian, I do not want to consume salad every day for the entire school year. There are so many other vegetarian options and meals to make aside from their rarely changing veggie options.
I was considering moving into a residence hall for my final year of undergrad, but I will definitely pass, because even if I lived in a hall with a kitchen, you are still obligated to purchase the minimum of 25 meals per semester with $150 of “food loot” at a total of $368, a total that I just do not think it is worth.
Housing on campus may correlate with food access, but that should not allow the university to decide what food options are right for you, at quite the price.