A Swipe Of Advice: On the Meal Plan

If there is one objective, capital-T Truth that exists within the entire span of our infinite universe, it is that there is one, single best meal plan for Swatties to be on. There are five meal plan options, consisting of four lies and one answer to the questions humankind has been asking for the entirety of existence. This, obviously, is a bit of an exaggeration. Different students have different lifestyles that make different meal plans fit them best — however, there are some clear distinctions to be made, and as the resident expert on all things OneCard and dining, I’m here to provide a guide on how to get the most out of your now unchangeable meal plan choice, and how to do better next semester.
The Swat plan, better known as “the unlimited plan” is the default plan for all students, and one of the two plans available to first-years. It gives students 150 Points, for on-campus use, and 150 Swat Points, for Ville use. The unlimited plan is fairly unpopular, as going to the Ville often requires more points than is allotted, but can be managed. 150 points over the fourteen week semester means that those on the Swat plan can use almost 11 points per week off-campus, and slightly more than that if they travel over fall break. That means you can eat a meal or two in the Ville every week. This is reasonable for those still working out the time-management aspect of Swarthmore. Getting Sharples at the same time every day helps newer students establish routines. For those on this plan, keeping track of how many points are left is essential. Getting a late-night snack at Essie Mae’s is also pertinent: this plan offers as many meals as you can use, so stock up on your favorite nonperishable snacks, try every menu item at the grill, or get cereal and milk for breakfast in your dorm. It’s also worth noting that the unlimited plan technically isn’t unlimited; the OneCard office subtracts each meal from a balance of 1,000. Using that many meals would require over ten swipes a day, through which would be an uphill battle for even those with the largest appetites.
The next plan, the Garnet plan, has 275 meals, 300 Points, and 200 Swat Points. It’s functionally equivalent to the unlimited plan in terms of meal swipes, as it essentially gives a person three meals a day over the 13 weeks that Sharples has full service. Considering that Sharples serves two meals per day on Saturday and Sunday, and assuming that no one is punctual enough to make it to breakfast every morning before their classes start, those on the Garnet plan can eat Sharples whenever they like, get Essie’s a few times a week, and venture into the Ville more often than their friends with unlimited meals. For first-years, the Garnet plan is a testament to not accepting the status-quo and demanding something better, in a polite email to the OneCard Office, of course.
The Parrish plan and the NPPR apartment plans have the most points and the least swipes and illustrate the phrase “with freedom comes responsibility” well. At just 160 meal swipes, those on these plans must budget their trips to Sharples wisely, as they can only average 12 over a seven day period. These students have much more freedom to spend points: each plan totals 900 points, with the Parrish plan giving students 500 on-campus points and 400 Ville points, whereas NPPR residents get 200 on-campus points and 700 for off-campus use. These students must budget their time and points wisely, especially if they are cooking meals from scratch using ingredients from the Co-Op, which is known to be pricier than chain grocery stores like Giant or Target. This plan is only for students who truly can commit to acquiring food by themselves. There are some valid critiques of Sharples, but it’s consistent, and you don’t have to cook it yourself or wash dishes, which saves students precious time and energy.
Lastly, the Phoenix plan is the best of both worlds, combining the ability to regularly get meals at Sharples with the flexibility of having more points. At 225 meals, the Phoenix plan allows students an average of 17 meals per week, giving a student the option to have lunch and dinner at Sharples every day with 3 extra swipes for Essie’s or weekday breakfast. 400 on-campus points and 300 off-campus points means that students on the Phoenix plan can get two to three Ville meals per week. The Phoenix plan isn’t available to everyone on campus, but for those who can choose beyond first-year options,it strikes a perfect balance between campus options and being able to venture off-campus when one chooses.
A person’s meal plan selection won’t make or break a person’s semester, but it can vastly improve their dietary utility if chosen correctly. Every meal plan has its benefits and costs, but only the Phoenix plan provides the most points without sacrificing regular access to Sharples. And, of course, it is named in honor of Swarthmore’s best publication and only on-campus print news source.

Laura Wagner

Laura '20 is from Dover, Delaware. She is in the honors program studying political science and economics. Outside of the classroom and the newsroom, her interests include running, politics, and really good books.

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