The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Students Swipe Meals With Less Time Restrictions

3 min read


This semester, Dining Services allows students to use their meals when they choose, without the time restrictions enforced in the past.
Meals can now be used whenever Dining Services is open, regardless of the meal block, as long as the student still has meals for that week left.  Now the option is available to use more meals in one time block without having to use Flex or EagleOne.
According to the Dining Services website, guest meals are not included within the meal plans. This means that while students can use more than one meal for themselves, they cannot use a meal for someone else.
At the start of this year, Dining Services worked to alter student eating options. Erma Baker, assistant vice president for business services, said they made the choice to change the old option as a result of several factors, including talking with students.
Dining Services took into account feedback from the SGA student dining committee, a survey of 450 students conducted last year and dining team visits to all residence halls.
Students requested more flexibility for when they could use their meal plans.  Baker said, though, that Dining Serves “wants the student[s] to be aware that it is their responsibility to monitor their meal usage and to get the maximum value out of their meal plans.”
Dining Services started talking about this option in the spring, and finalized the decision in the summer at the end of the contracted term. They implemented the change at the start of this semester.
This new option can be used at both dining locations.  At the Nest, one meal still counts as up to $4.  The Underground, however, will still only be taking Flex and EagleOne Dollars.
Students say this new option will help them use more of their meals each week.
Junior Annie Bolick said she loves the new option.
“I finally actually use all of my meals, and now I don’t have to go to Giant to get milk and yogurt, since I can use meals to stock up on them at the end of the week,” Bolick said.
Baker said she did not expect the students to store food, but rather to graze during the day, eating many small meals or snacks.  She also believes participation in the meal plans will increase.
According to Bolick, leftover meals can now be used at the end of the week to shop for weekly snacks.
Junior Matt Baker also uses extra meals to have “a light breakfast snack.”
This new meal option increases the chances of students being able to use their meals before the end of the week.
“There are ups and downs to the new meal option,” sophomore Lauren Ryerson said. “The upside is that you can use meals whenever you want, and don’t have to wait until the next meal zone. However, last week, I ran out of meals because I didn’t realize how many I was using.”
This new option benefits all students and is an improvement from last year, according to sophomore Erin Berry.
“It provides an option for those students on campus who do not have normal schedules, and is profitable for the school because students are now more likely to use the dining facilities,” Berry said.
“I like the idea of no meal time zones,” junior Michelle Cole said. “I used to have the problem that I wanted a snack around 4 p.m., but when I wanted dinner around 8 p.m., I realized I used the meal at 4 p.m., so I had to use EagleOne or Flex.”
Junior Meg Baker said that one possible flaw is how the dining services employees do not ask whether students want to use multiple meals, or a meal and Flex.
“I’ve had them use two meals at the same time when I’d rather have paid the 50 cents in flex,” Baker said.
Erma Baker said that the dining staff has been retrained and coached to make the students more aware of how many meals they have left that week.  Students are always able to ask how many they have left. If a mistake is made, the dining staff can also fix it if it is brought to their attention.
Erma Baker wants to encourage students to visit different dining rooms to see the options available.  Dining staff will rotate food options every few months. They also plan to change the stations every few months to help keep them interesting.