Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Starting next year, students may no longer be able to exchange their extra meals for packaged goods like soda and chips from Essie Mae’s. In a major overhaul to the current system, Dining Services is considering changing the meal-point equivalence system to one in which meals can be used to purchase one of a set menu of meal options.
For example, rather than a dinner meal being worth $4.00 in points, students will be able to cash in their meal for a burger and fries, a sandwich and chips, or a veggie burger with sauteed vegetables, all of which come with a piece of fruit and a fountain drink. (The full set of menus is below.)
Dining Services is proposing the new system because they are losing money on packaged goods. Although Essie Mae’s is funded by Dining Services and is not an independent business, the cost of buying prepackaged food far outweighs that of other bulk purchases. [Correction: Essie Mae’s does not lose money on packaged goods, but instead these items cost more than the equivalent meals listed below. Effectively, this means that Dining Services requires a higher budget.]
The reduced flexibility of meals would be offset by an additional 15-75 points per semester, depending on which meal plan a student was on. Additionally, Essie Mae’s would stay open much later, and the new hours would be extended to include a “late dinner” meal option from 10pm until midnight.
Reactions to the proposed changes are far from enthusiastic.
David Pupkin, a junior who had spent his four dinner points on a bag of chips and a frozen fruit bar, rattled off a string of expletives when he heard about the proposed changes. “Sharples sucks enough as it is,” he said. “Now there’s no reason not to get the 14-meal plan.”
A passing freshman agreed, adding that according to his understanding of how Essie Mae’s is funded, he could “find no reason they should make this change in order to save money.”
Xiaoxia Zhuang ’10 was spending her dinner points on a sandwich, but also said that she didn’t think the change was a good idea. “I like the flexibility that the present options have,” she said. “[The new system] would be inconvenient for a lot of students.”
Despite these widely-held concerns about loss of flexibility, some see the proposed changes as a potential improvement. Student Groups Advisor Paul Apollo ’09 told fellow SBC members that the ability to get a square meal at Essie Mae’s was “what people have been asking for all semester,” and would be “a step in the right direction.”
Currently these changes to the point system are still in the planning stages, and any plan that is eventually implemented could look significantly different.
Head of Dining Services Linda McDougal was not available for comment at the time that this was written.
1. Bagel, fruit, beverage
2. Phoenix with sausage or bacon, beverage
3. Cup of cereal, fruit, beverage
4. Pastry, fruit, beverage
1. Sandwich, chips, beverage
2. Burger, fries, beverage
3. Garden or black bean burger, sauteed vegetable, beverage
4. Pizza, small Caesar salad, beverage
5. Fingers and fries, beverage
6. Caesar salad with chicken strips, beverage
1. Sandwich, chips, fruit, beverage
2. Garden or black bean burger, sauteed vegetable, beverage
3. Burger, fries, fruit, vegetable, beverage
4. Cheese steak, beverage
5. Wrap with chicken strips, beverage
6. Pizza, small Caesar salad, fruit, beverage
1. Cold sandwich, chips, fruit, beverage
2. Pizza, small Caesar salad, beverage
3. Cereal, yogurt, fruit, beverage
Sandwiches include choice of bread, meat, cheese and toppings. Beverages are 12oz and include fountain soda or juice, hot tea, iced tea, or milk.