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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Meal plans switch to semesterly allotments, limit Munchie Mart swipes to two per day

Campus Dining rolled out new off-campus meal plans, while all on-campus meal plans are increasing by $400.
Emery Little
Kissam Munchie Mart, as photographed on January 23, 2020. (Hustler Multimedia/Emery Little)

UPDATED: This story was updated on July 9, 2023, to provide information about changes to the prices of flex meal bundles. 

Meal plans for the 2023-24 academic year will be on a semesterly basis rather than a weekly basis, according to a Campus Dining update. Students also will now only be able to use two meal swipes at Munchie Marts per day. 

Students have yet to be directly notified of changes to meal plans; an update was posted to Campus Dining’s website on May 15 with the changes.

Students will receive the same total number of meal swipes and Meal Money as with the previous allotment system. The former daily limit of five total meal swipes has been eliminated, with all-you-can-eat locations accepting one swipe per 45 minutes. The five-swipes-per-day policy was implemented to aid students in allotting their meal swipes. Under the new plan, Campus Dining recommended that students use the GET app to track their meal swipe usage.

Campus Dining added that more changes to dining offerings would be announced this summer.

Changes to meal swipes

In a June 14 email to The Hustler, Campus Dining emphasized that the change to the semesterly allotment was made to give students more flexibility in their dining options. 

“Students overwhelmingly supported added flexibility in how they could use meal plans, and moving to a semester block allows students to use meals whenever they like throughout the semester,” Campus Dining said. 

Campus Dining declined to comment on the reasoning behind the daily meal swipe limit at Munchie Marts. However, recently retired dining employee and union representative Anne Alukonis told The Hustler that she believes the reason lies in profits. She stated that pre-packed meals offered in Munchie Marts generate less profit than dining hall meals. Campus Dining declined to comment on this matter. 

Aaron Johnson, a junior, said limiting Munchie Mart swipes will increase the amount of time students have to spend on their meals. He also spoke about the unique offerings of some Munchie Marts, such as açaí bowls at the Kissam location, and how the new policy limits how often students can take advantage of those options. 

“Limiting Munchie access is so stupid when you can’t get food from [some] dining halls without waiting 30 minutes in line,” Johnson said. “If I want to eat only açaí for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I should be afforded that right.”

Sarah Lyou, a senior who has lived in Highland Quad for two years, stated that she often used more than two swipes at Munchie Marts per day when living at Highland due to its distance from dining halls. 

“It’s a lot farther from the dining halls than the other dorms, so I found myself going to Munchie a lot either for meals, snacks or ingredients I needed to cook,” Lyou said. “There were many days I used more than two Munchie swipes per day, so I feel like limiting Munchie swipes would disproportionately affect people at Highland.”

Under the new allotment system, first-years will receive 335 meal swipes per semester, sophomores and juniors will receive 305 meal swipes and seniors will receive 225 meal swipes. All students will receive an additional five guest meal swipes, as in previous years. Meal swipes from the fall semester will not roll over to the spring semester. 

Senior Matthew Stein approved of this change, citing the previous weekly allotments as unconducive to his eating habits. 

“I seemed to find myself running out of meal swipes before the end of some weeks,” Stein said. “So now I wouldn’t have to worry about getting swipes from friends.”

Changes to meal plan options

The All Access meal plan, which was a new offering in the 2022-23 academic year, will not be available for the 2023-24 school year. Campus Dining stated that student feedback informed this decision.

“During Campus Dining’s annual meal plan review process, a number of factors helped inform the 2023-24 plan including direct student feedback from the Dining Advisory Board, regular meetings with Vanderbilt Student Government (VSG), and focus groups conducted by an independent consulting firm,” Campus Dining said.

Two new meal plans are now being offered exclusively to undergraduates living off-campus, both of which include an additional five guest meal swipes but exclude Meal Money. One plan offers the same number of swipes per semester as the senior on-campus meal plan for a yearly total of $6,048, while the other plan includes 75 meal swipes per semester for a yearly total of $2,500.

Flex meal bundles for off-campus students will still be sold next year. At the time of initial publication, blocks of 10, 20 and 30 meals cost $125, $250 and $375, respectively. At this rate of $12.50 per meal, students could have purchased 200 flex meals for the same price as two semesters of the 75-swipe off-campus plan. However, prices were raised by $2.50 per meal as of the end of June 2023; blocks of 10, 20 and 30 meals now cost $150, $300 and $450, respectively. Students can now purchase 166 flex meals for approximately the same price as two semesters of the 75-swipe off-campus plan, a difference of an additional 6 meals. They can also purchase 403 flex meals for approximately the same price as two semesters of the 225-swipe off-campus plan, a difference of 52 fewer meals.

Junior Kyle Vallone, who will be living off campus in the 2023-24 academic year, called the price disparities between off-campus flex bundles and meal plans “suspicious.”

“Campus Dining not including the pricing information for standard flex meals and trying to push more expensive meal plan options to off-campus students just seems disingenuous, especially when a standard bowl from a restaurant like Cava is actually cheaper than the $12.50 someone would have to spend per flex meal,” Vallone said.

Senior Chandler Alexander also commented on the prices of off-campus meal plans, saying he thinks they are too high. Vallone and Parsons both stated they would not be purchasing off-campus meal plans.

“It is just another sad attempt by Vandy to get students to overpay for mediocre food,” Alexander said. “[Off-campus students] can cook/buy food out for much cheaper per meal.”

Caroline Carrello, also a senior, echoed Alexander, stating that the price of the meal plans greatly exceed her typical food budget. Carrello lived on campus for the 2022-23 academic year and will do so again this upcoming year. 

“$2500 for a meal plan equals roughly 25 weeks of groceries for me, which is almost the whole year, so it wouldn’t seem worth it,” Carrello said. 

Prices of on-campus meal plans

All on-campus meal plans increased in cost by approximately $400 for the upcoming academic year compared to 2022-23. In the past four years, meal plan prices have risen by approximately $1,200, amounting to around $300 when adjusted for inflation. Campus Dining declined to comment on the reason behind different meal plans increasing in cost at varying rates and by different amounts.

“Vanderbilt Campus Dining is a self-operated auxiliary department within the Division of Administration and uses meal plan revenue to fund its comprehensive and nationally-recognized dining program. Costs are subject to inflation and other economic factors, and include direct food costs, employee wages and benefits, and other operating overhead,” Campus Dining said. “Of note, the cost of Vanderbilt’s undergraduate meal plans is aligned with many of our academic peer institutions.”

A junior being kept anonymous for health privacy reasons explained that the cost of meal plans played into her decision to move off campus for the 2023-24 academic year. 

“One of the most important factors in my decision to move off campus was having the option to not pay for a meal plan,” the student said. “As someone with severe food restrictions, Campus Dining just does not cut it for me.”

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About the Contributors
Rachael Perrotta
Rachael Perrotta, Former Editor-in-Chief
Rachael Perrotta ('24) is from Cranston, R.I., and majored in cognitive studies, communication of science and technology and political science and minored in gender and sexuality studies in Peabody College. She was also previously Senior Advisor and News Editor. If she's not pressing you for a comment, she's probably trying to convince you that she's over 5 feet tall, cheering on the Red Sox or wishing Nashville had a beach. She can be reached at [email protected].
Emery Little
Emery Little, Former Social Media Director
Emery Little (‘22) is from Birmingham, AL. She majored in communication of science and technology and Spanish. In her free time, she loves to design graphics, follow tech news and run her photography business. She can be reached at [email protected].
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