This semester, The College of New Jersey is enforcing a policy that will restrict students’ dining options. According to the Dining Services website, “If a student takes advantage of Meal Equivalency, access to The Atrium at Eickhoff is no longer unlimited, as access will be prohibited during the Meal Equivalency period.”
With college students facing so many yearly expenses from tuition to housing to textbooks, lessening the value of a meal plan exploits students and disrupts their daily routines.
The College’s Dining Services Twitter account explained on Wednesday, Jan. 7, that this has always been the intent of the College, but “the register system did not allow us to set the proper parameters until a recent upgrade.”
One student replied and inquired, “Was that upgrade financed by the revenue generated from your overpriced food?” It’s not a bad question.
I have Carte Blanche B, the smallest plan that gives me unlimited access to the dining hall all day, along with 250 points to spend. It cost me $1,920.96 for the fall semester and $1,824.39 for the spring — a whopping $3,745.35 for the year.
An ABC News article from July titled “How Do Median Income Families Spend Money?” estimates that $100 a week for groceries is enough to feed a family.
But let’s say $100 is only enough to cover a single college student’s meals for a week. Multiply that by the number of weeks students at the College spend living on campus in a school year and the total comes to about $3,400. Adding those 250 points back onto the total still doesn’t meet the cost of my meal plan.
The bottom line is students aren’t receiving any special deals when purchasing a meal plan, which is why the incentive of Meal Equivalency is so important.
“For added flexibility and variety,” the website states, “Meal Equivalency allows a Carte Blanche meal plan holder to forgo unlimited swipes into The Atrium at Eickhoff during the Meal Equivalency period for $7.25 worth of food at The Lions Den, The Library Cafe, The Rathskeller, Education Cafe and KinetiCart… Using Meal Equivalency at these designated locations will prohibit you from entering The Atrium at Eickhoff during Meal Equivalency period (11:00 a.m. — 1:30 p.m.).”
Many students utilize Meal Equivalency as a substitute for lunch, but others use it in addition to eating a meal in the dining hall.
Some students use Meal Equivalency to get a coffee from the Library Cafe before entering Eickhoff to eat a real meal. Others use Meal Equivalency to get a couple protein bars from KinetiCart before a workout, and then head to the dining hall afterwards. This new policy now only allows students to purchase these items at the cost of their points or instead of a quality lunch from the dining hall.
Another student, sophomore health and physical education teaching major Monica Murphy, expressed concerns on Twitter about limited gluten-free options on campus. If she wants to eat lunch in the My Zone section of the Atrium at Eickhoff to ensure her meal has not been contaminated by gluten, she must forgo Meal Equivalency every day.
Furthermore, if a student goes to Eickhoff to eat at 11 a.m. and then gets hungry again before 1:30 p.m., they can return to the Atrium and eat there again. If a student eats at the Lion’s Den, however, and is hungry again before 1:30 p.m., they have no dining options that will not cost them points.
This new policy, or rather the enforcement of it after four years, forces students to pay more money for fewer dining options, makes planning meals more difficult for students and is harmful to individuals with dietary restrictions. The College should reconsider its policy and return to the system that has worked for the past few years.
*This story was originally published in The Signal.