Through efforts spearheaded by the university and the Georgetown University Student Association, students’ meal exchange swipes and Flex Dollars have expanded to more locations on campus beginning this year. Instead of having students bottleneck at O’Donovan Hall during rush hours, students can now use their meal swipes at a variety of places including Cosi, Elevation Burger, Salad Creations and Subway. Along with this development, mobile ordering and pickup now make it easier than ever for students to pick what they want and take it on the go.
For much of the campus community, such advancements and programs are a step in the right direction, providing students with more dining options. However, even more efforts can be made to increase accessibility to meal programs and help students keep to their budgets.
Our dining services and options remain troublingly the same — particularly the block meal plans available to sophomores and other upperclassmen. The 60 block plan, which comes with 60 flex dollars, costs $976, which means that each meal costs $15.26. Meanwhile, the 75 block plan costs $1,096, with each meal costing $14.61. The 115 block plan comes down to $14.44 per meal.
Put this in the context of what one receives when spending a swipe at Subway, for instance. One swipe gets a 6-inch sandwich, medium drink and a bag of chips or fruit. Such an order hardly comes close to the pricing of even the 115 block plan, and in fact, over $6 is being wasted.
When the math is calculated, swipes come at a loss for students most of the time, as they could have paid much less for the same food at another location off campus. While the university has expanded dining options on campus, greater initiative should be taken to expand the meal plan swipes and Flex Dollars to establishments outside of our gates, where students can actually take advantage of the most bang for their buck.
Imagine if a student could spend their flex dollars and meal swipes at Booeymonger and Wisemiller’s Grocery and Deli. The student would cut back significantly from their budget. This would also be highly beneficial to these businesses, which would receive an influx of new customers. Other establishments that could potentially sign up for this partnership include Good Stuff Eatery, Sweet Green, Pizza Movers, Chipotle, Simply Bahn Mi and Wingo’s.
The best partnership would be with the grocery store Safeway on Wisconsin Street, which could create a system that allows students to use swipes at the establishment or use their Flex Dollars to purchase produce and groceries. Georgetown could also follow Loyola University Maryland’s example; the university saw a need to serve its commuter students and opened its own grocery stores on two ends of its campus, thus allowing options to purchase produce closer to where they spend a majority of their time.
There is certainly no shortage of possible partnerships that our university should consider. What is most important, however, is to shift our conversation from praising our newly updated system to what improvements need to be made in order to serve the parts of our community that need assistance. Avenues for improvement clearly exist and as the conversation surrounding our dining services continue, it may be time to look past our front gates for greater, and possibly more affordable, options.