By ERIN LUNDY
UMW gives their students restrictive meal plan options every school year. While some students end up with zero Flex, others are left with too much and forced to seek other options in spending their money in order to not let it go to waste. To combat the problem, UMW should have more meal plan options, and it should partner with local businesses to allow students to spend Flex Dollars off campus.
According to the UMW website, for this spring semester, the meal plan options provide 4 to 5 selections for both on-campus and off-campus and only one very expensive option for incoming freshmen. For on-campus students, the cheapest option is the 85-block meal plan that permits $225 in Flex each semester for $987. For a more expensive option, the “Eagle ‘Every Meal’ Plan” option for on-campus students provides $200 in Flex and 19 meal swipes per week for $2,189.
“I usually spend all of my money,” said senior marketing major Teddy Bush. “Even when I had the more expensive one my freshman year, I always spent all of my Flex Dollars and had to ask my friends to pay for my food sometimes.” Bush has been an on-campus student every year and frequently eats on-campus. As Bush mentioned, he had the most expensive meal plan his freshman year and found himself scrounging for more Flex Dollars to eat on campus.
For freshmen residing on-campus, UMW only allows them to buy the “Eagle ‘Every Meal’” plan, an incredibly expensive option for students.
“I thought it was incredibly expensive,” said sophomore biology major Jessica Mimms. “Before I started my freshman year at UMW, I was hesitant to even come here because of the expensive meal plan. I wish they had more choices because I barely used my meal swipes and pretty much spent all my Flex.”
Though off-campus students have similar meal plan options, the cheapest option for these students is the 30-block meal plan with $575 in Flex each semester for $691. An off-campus student who chose this meal plan option in their previous years ended up accumulating more money than she needed.
“In my junior year, I moved off-campus and chose the 30-block meal plan,” said senior psychology major Alex Sharpe. “Since Flex transfers over each semester, I ended up having the $575 and then another $200 from the fall semester in my junior year. Since I still have some even now, I’ve been buying Panera every week for my roommates.”
Off-campus students who wish to have a cheaper meal plan are restricted to a tremendous amount of Flex Dollars with only limited meal swipes. As Flex Dollars carry over onto students’ EagleOne cards their next semester, those who are willing to spend their leftover Flex on friends are able to spend their money before letting it go to waste.
However, several students have suggested that a way for them to spend their leftover Flex without letting it go to waste is by UMW reconfiguring a system where students could spend their money at their favorite off-campus food places too.
“That would be awesome,” said Sharpe. “Since the options are so limited on campus, being able to use the money we put in for the semester at other locations would be very nice. That way we also don’t have to go broke from paying for college and paying for excess food as well.” By doing so, students would be able to spend their remaining Flex Dollars and meal swipes while also preventing themselves from throwing away valuable money they put towards their college finances.
Advocacy for supporting local food businesses has become a popular idea among students as well. Since the COVID pandemic, these kinds of businesses have become increasingly desperate for customers. However, with the number of the students in great support and enthusiasm for these food businesses, the resulting outcome would see that both the students and businesses would greatly benefit from this change.
“If I could use my EagleOne and also save a business, that would be awesome,” said senior communications major Zane Burk. “If I could just put money on my EagleOne and pay for it, I feel like we would make a huge difference.”
To put it simple, UMW has limited meal plan options. Whether on-campus or off-campus, students are left with very few choices while also being forced to pay more than what is necessary in order to simply eat. To solve this, some students have suggested that UMW should turn its attention towards Fredericksburg’s community of food businesses. If only UMW could reconfigure its EagleOne payment system to apply to local businesses, students wouldn’t have to deal with wasting Flex Dollars.