WHITE: Limited Munchie Mart meals available for a meal swipe is a campus cash grab

Any upperclassman will tell you: Munchie Mart used to be better.

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Sophia She

Kissam Munchie Mart (Sophia She/Vanderbilt Hustler)

Alexa White

Munchie Mart used to be the prime place to use meal swipes. In years past, students would pop in for snacks during the day and spend the meal swipes they had leftover on Sunday nights before the meal plan reset at midnight.  Now, the most popular foods are only available with Meal Money or Commodore Cash and all the items available are either a frozen or premade meal. Gone are the days of using Munchie mart to get snacks to keep in your dorm, and if you don’t have a fridge, freezer and microwave? Forget it. 

Things used to be very different. You’d walk into the Munchie Mart, grab some junk food and check out. When you had some leftover meal swipes at the end of the week, filling up on easily saved snacks was the perfect solution. Every Munchie had its own perks too: Rand was in a central location; at Kissam, you could get a fresh sandwich; Highland had a fruit butcher; Commons was open at all times and Branscomb had the best selection.

Now, you walk up to a table and grab your bag of whatever you ordered. Sometimes, they are out of specific items as the week goes on, but the worst part of the new system is that it’s a ruthless cash grab from the university. This system provides more desirable options for students with more money; students who do not have Commodore Cash to spare have less options than others with more financial freedom. 

Students are frustrated with the new lack of choice, especially coming at a time where choice has already been limited across campus due to the pandemic. Comfort foods such as candy bars, chips and a huge variety of beverages are now only available by using Commodore Cash or Meal Money. Some other favorites that are hard to get for students living on campus without a car are missing as well such as fresh berries and whole melons.

These arbitrary distinctions between foods that are available for a meal swipe and those which are not were made with seemingly no consideration for the impact on students. 

Sophomore David Boyer said he feels like he has been wasting meals every single week due to the lack of good options available for a meal swipe. 

“I went from using all 21 swipes per week to having at least five left over now with 19,” Boyer said. “The things that I got [last year] aren’t even available anymore.” 

Boyer’s perspective is not uncommon—many students are frustrated that if they want their favorite items, they must pay with coveted Meal Money or Commodore Cash. 

Campus Dining has brought back many of the options students enjoy for the Spring 2021 semester, but Munchie Mart has yet to see improvements from the Fall 2020 semester. Vanderbilt has made their most popular snack items unavailable with the meal plan. These snacks were necessary for those who had classes during lunch periods, those who went to the gym early or those who partook in late night studying sessions when no dining halls were open. 

Sophomore Carson Ferrara is one of the students affected by the Munchie Mart changes. 

“With the way my classes are structured this semester, I will often get out of class at times when the dining halls are closed between lunch and dinner,” Ferrara said. 

Munchie Mart items available on the meal plan in the past like chips, candy bars and shelf-stable beverages were popular options, because they could be eaten at a later date or carried along during the day. When students are using their extra meals—meals that Vanderbilt forced them to pay for already—they aren’t necessarily looking for food to eat immediately. They are looking for snacks for a later time. 

There is an easy solution to this whole issue. Vanderbilt needs to make all items accessible with a meal swipe as they were before. For every item, students should be given the choice to pay for their items with Meal Money, a meal swipe or Commodore Cash. We already paid for these meals; give us the flexibility to choose what we want to buy.

You can’t convince me that the pandemic is why I can’t get candy from Munchie mart, Vanderbilt just wants more of my money.