As the fall semester at San Diego State comes to a close, freshmen and other on-campus students have been expressing their frustration with the lack of food options available on their meal plan through a new online petition.
The meal plan, which is mandatory for all on-campus freshmen, requires money to be pre-loaded for on-campus meals, and currently consists of three tiers. The “mini,” “select,” and “prime value” tiers all give students a weekly allowance ranging from $95-$140 per week, where unused funds transfer to the next week but expire at the end of the semester.
Some students, like biology first-year Sophie Rokaw, feel the meal plan is harmful to students since so many food options have been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We aren’t really getting anything we’re paying for,” Rokaw said. “There’s nowhere to eat, and there’s not really any Aztec Markets nearby…hopefully we’ll have more options that are spread out and not just in one condensed area.”
Rokaw’s experience of not having many breakfast places available on meal plan near her dorm, along with the news that Broken Yolk would be closing in the spring, caused her to create a petition requesting more food options such as East Commons be opened up like in previous years.
Currently, 22 dining options are operational and available to on-campus students. Sixteen of these are open on weekends, but only 9 are open for dinner on weekends, according to Aztec Shops.
Additionally, SDSU Dining has brought in food trucks to Villa Alvarado apartments.
Supporters of the petition, like journalism first-year Lisa LeBel, feel the precautionary changes to meal plan have primarily impacted students in certain dorms like Villa Alvarado and the on-campus apartment buildings on 55th Street, referred to by students as “The Tecs.”
“I know kids who live on the edges of campus that especially don’t have a lot of options for getting food since places near them are either closed or have hours that don’t work for the students,” LeBel said. “The results of this is that students have to resort to mainly going to the food options by South Campus Plaza, which takes time and energy on their part just to be able to get food.”
It’s a mile walk from Huaxtepec apartments to The Garden dining hall.
The petition also highlights how difficult it can be for students to maintain a proper diet when some of the already limited options on meal plan are closed on weekends.
“I don’t think the meal plan offers a lot of healthy options for students,” LeBel said. “I think that’s also why a lot of students are frustrated with the closing of Broken Yolk, because it did offer some more healthy options like wraps, salads, and smoothies.”
While the hours of operation of many of the locations on the meal plan is up to those individual vendors, the university still reserves the power to change the way meal plan functions. However, Rokaw says she is afraid SDSU will revert to a previous meal plan format for the spring semester, one that involves a daily declining balance.
“If they were to take away the roll away option, we’d be losing a lot of money,” Rokaw said. “Especially if they don’t open things up again…if they leave us with the options we have now and decide to change it, it would be even more unfair to students.”
According to Aztec Shops, despite the closure of many food options, the university has other resources available for food insecure students.
“As we understand that changes restaurant owners have made in the areas surrounding SDSU may adversely impact our students, we continue to encourage students to rely on a number of SDSU resources,” Aztec Shops said. “Students who need help accessing food can contact the Economic Crisis Response Team (ECRT) and the Food Pantry, both of which help connect students with healthy food options.”
Rokaw’s petition currently has 795 signatures with a goal of 1,000. She hopes the petition will hit its goal within the next week and compel the university to amend the meal plan to provide more options.