Relieve freshmen of meal plan restraints

Photo by Monica Linzmeier

Photo by Monica Linzmeier

by Sabrina Shahawi

College is expensive during freshman year. Living in dorms is even more expensive and having to pay for a meal plan is the golden cherry on top of the money pie. San Diego State Dining Services offers a plethora of different food options that are desirable at first, but get old after a couple of months. Not to mention the food prices are more costly and less healthy. I guess you can say you get no bang for your buck.

“Use it or lose it!” That’s the commonly-used phrase posted on the SDSU Dining Services website. Every student who lives on campus at SDSU is required to buy a meal plan. They are then allotted a certain amount of money to spend throughout the day or semester.

There are four types of meal plans: the 10 Meal Plan, Flex 5, Flex 7 and Meals Plan Plus, more commonly known among freshman as “the fat kid meal plan.” I would love to tell you which meal plan is the most cost effective, but unfortunately none are. You’re most likely to get swindled out of your money no matter which meal plan you choose. With the 10 Meal Plan, Flex 5 and Flex 7, if students don’t spend all the money they’re given for the day,  they lose it. With the “fat kid meal plan,” if students don’t spend all of their money at the end of the last semester of the year, guess what? They lose it.

Vinnie’s Pizza & Pasta bar, Rubio’s, Daphne’s, Juice It Up!, Panda Express, Salad Bistro, So-Cal Chicken, Sushi Do and Olive Oil Cafe are the most common places to eat on campus during the day. Now, which of these options sounds healthy to you? Maybe some or maybe none, but which of these sounds affordable? I’m telling you from experience, none are.

Picture this: as a part of your New Year’s resolution you’re trying to start eating healthier, but you have a meal plan. You don’t have the means or money to go off campus and get healthy groceries, so you rely solely on your meal plan. It’s a Monday afternoon and you just finished class. You’re famished and eager to get a nice, healthy and filling lunch. You walk all the way from Peterson Gym and are greeted by endlessly long lines of hungry students in the same position as you. You choose Daphne’s as your most suitable solution. After waiting in a long line, you finally get to order and decide on the number one, which includes a chicken wrap, a small Greek salad (and when I say small, I mean a pinch of lettuce and toppings) and a drink. As you go to pay you see the price on the cash register pop up as $8. [quote]This meal may not even be that healthy, but was sadly your best option; it took forever to get because of the long line, and was pretty expensive.[/quote] If you have the Flex 5, Flex 7 or 10 Meal Plan, a transaction such as this leaves you with only around $11 remaining in your meal plan account for the rest of the day, assuming you haven’t made any previous purchases. Yes, $11 may sound like a solid amount of money for a snack and a dinner, but unfortunately it isn’t.

Almost all the eateries in East and West Commons close by 7:30 p.m. at the latest, and the only remaining options are the Aztec Markets and the dining halls. And sometimes, it seems as if the healthiest options at the market and dining halls are the most expensive.

Now, once again, I ask you to picture this. You’re now hungry again hours after your lunch at Daphne’s and you want a snack. You’re craving fruit. You walk down to Aztec Market and see some delicious-looking strawberries. Your mind is set and you’re getting those strawberries, but they cost $3.99–absolutely absurd, considering you can go to Food 4 Less and buy a huge package of strawberries for only a dollar more. Fast forward, it’s now dinner and you want to get a chicken salad of some sort at the University Towers Kitchen dining hall, popularly known as the healthiest dining hall. Well, it costs $9. You got a healthy lunch, snack and dinner with your meal plan and now have to pay $2 out of your own pocket. That’s unacceptable.

[quote]SDSU should feel an obligation to either implement healthier food options at affordable prices or provide the option for students to not have to purchase a meal plan. [/quote]It’s wrong that at the end the day, some students on a meal plan still have to pay for their food in addition to paying for a meal plan. It’s wrong that students struggle to find healthy meal options and when they do have to pay an extra cost. It’s wrong that students are being conned out of their money and some are stuck with food that they don’t even like. SDSU is a school of opportunities, options and fairness. Either food prices go down and healthier options are made available or meal plan should be flat-out optional.