Students need more meal options

It’s Friday night and a sophomore promised to meet his friend for dinner. He rushes to the Louis J. Esposito Dining Hall, better known as “the caf,” and has his Owl Card swiped. But there’s a problem.

“Sorry, you already used your meal. Want to use Diamond Dollars?” asks the cafeteria worker. “I have four meals left. I won’t be here this weekend,” exclaims the student. “Take them all off if you want.”

“I can’t,” says the cafeteria worker. “Diamond Dollars?” In anger, the student grabs his card and walks away to call his friend.

This exact scenario never happened, but there definitely have been situations like it.

Despite the fact that students are pre-paying for their meals, unless they have the “Super Value Carte Blanche Meal Plan,” they are not allowed to choose when to use them at Main Campus dining establishments.

So a student who pays $1,257 for the “Super Value 12 Meals With $150 Diamond Dollars Plan” can only eat during 12 completely different meal periods.

Want to eat at 4:30 p.m. and 7:45 p.m.? Don’t even think about it. Those times are both considered dinnertime. A student cannot use his meal plan more than once during the same meal period. How dare he get hungry twice during the same meal?

Don’t rush over to the Valaida S. Walker Food Court in the Student Center either. It’s either the caf or here – never both.

“You apparently used this meal already. Diamond Dollars?”

Grab your card and run.

I do my grocery shopping at the Student Center. Or I just go in with a friend and get him a meal. I have the Carte Blanche plan. As much as I (or my mother) pay for this meal plan ($1,402), I recognize the need to utilize my meals. And I don’t want to leave my friends hungry. I should never have to.

Despite having this “all-you-can-eat” meal plan, I’m not allowed to use my meals on anyone else in the Esposito Dining Hall.

“My friend ran out of meals earlier; can you swipe my card for her since I have unlimited?” “No can do, Jeffrey,” the worker answers. “Diamond Dollars?” “Fine, what if I don’t eat now?” I ask. “Then can she go in instead?”

Like David Spade in the Capital One commercials, “The answer’s always ‘No!'”

It is my pre-paid meal. I should be able to use my meal however I want to use it.

Whether someone has 20 meals for the semester, 12 per week, the Carte Blanche, or anything in between, each student should be able to make his or her own decision on when to use a meal.

If a student has the meal plan that includes eight meals a week and wants to use all eight meals on one dinner, he or she should be able to. This is not third grade. Students should be able to choose when to use their meals.

Maybe it’s too much of an extreme to allow me to swipe in all the homeless people in the area, or actually, the 50 per day I’d be able to, since the “unlimited” is not so limitless with the 50-meal maximum. But I should be permitted to help out a hungry, penniless friend. In trying, though, I will be told that someone else using my already-paid-for-meal is “stealing.”

We’re all just college students trying to eat. It is not right to tell us when we’re allowed to.

Jeff Appelblatt can be reached at

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