By Kimberly Awiszio
Starting this fall semester, FSU and Dining Services have eliminated the Meal Exchange program in favor of a Meal Exception program, leaving many students frustrated by their limited dining options.
The Meal Exchange program allowed students to use their meal swipes at locations other than the Dining Commons, such as the Marketplace, the Snack Shop and Sandella’s.
Many students around campus have been complaining about the new policy, saying it is an inconvenience to be forced to eat in the Dining Commons.
Kyle Collins, a junior biology major, said, “It would be really hard to go to the Dining Commons and have to wait in a long line when I would rather just grab something and go back to my room.”
Meal exchanges were originally put in place when North Hall opened in the fall of 2011. The program was only meant to be a temporary solution for the overcrowding of the Dining Commons. Ralph Eddy, director of Dining Services, said, “We had about roughly four hundred additional students that would be dining … so we implemented a temporary meal exchange program to allow students to have an alternate dining location.”
Within those two years, Eddy said that “roughly 2,000” meal exchanges were used per week.
Eddy said the Meal Exchange policy did cost more for Sodexo. “It was a significant amount over the two years.”
Dylan Shea, a junior computer science major, said having meal exchanges was a benefit, regardless of how much money Sodexo lost. “I used a meal exchange at least six or seven times a week.”
Geoffrey Ducharme, a senior math major, said, “They should have come up with a better system because it screws over the students tremendously.”
Lauren Hayes, a junior psychology major, said, “It’s annoying, considering I pay for my meals and I don’t get an option to not have a meal plan.”
The new expansion of the Dining Commons also played a role in the decision. “It was decided when they [meal exchanges] were implemented, that once the dining expansion was completed, the meal exchange would revert back to the old policy of the Meal Exception,” said Eddy. The expansion, however, has only recently become available to students as of Sept. 25.
Kayla Brice, a sophomore sociology major, said, “I don’t have time to fight through a crowd of people. It’s not my fault that the only free time I have to eat is during ‘peak hours.’”
The proposed solution for scheduling conflicts is the new Meal Exception policy. According to the policy, if any scheduling conflict prevents a student from eating during the allotted meal times, then that student can provide documented evidence of work, class or sports commitments. Dining Services will then provide the student with a dollar amount which can be utilized at any other dining location on campus.
“There were 75 meal exceptions used last week,” said Eddy, but this number does not compare to the approximately 2,000 meal exchanges used per week in past years.
Aislyn Zybert, a junior psychology major, said because her work hours change every week. She can’t apply for meal exceptions. “I pick up hours every week, so I don’t have a set schedule and my permanent hours aren’t enough for proof.”
Eddy said, “One of the things that we do hope to offer at some point with the new space is more of a Grab N’ Go area.” He explained there is a potential to add similar choices to what is offered in the Snack Bar.
Colleen Leary, a senior communication arts major, said, “Most students that live on campus don’t really have many options to go off campus to eat and have to eat in the cafeteria. It’s not fair.”
Julia McLaughlin, a junior English major, went to Dining Services to apply for meal exceptions due to not having the time to eat between classes and cheer practice. “They told me I couldn’t because I have a free half hour in between. They don’t understand that it’s not enough time if I want to get to cheer on time.”
Calvin Ridley, a sophomore studio art major, said that he is too busy to have to go to the Dining Commons as a working, full-time student who is also a resident assistant, a Foundations peer mentor and who is involved in multiple clubs. “Apparently that – and anxiety in crowded social situations – isn’t enough to qualify for more than two meal exceptions a week that are during my work hours.”