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Friday, January 28, 2022

Campus

SGA signs bill to potentially alter dining system


In an effort to address concerns over the current meal plans offered to on-campus residents, Student Government Association President Shaun Theriot-Smith signed the Student Focused Dining Act that would offer students more options and flexibility.

“SGA and the Food Services Advisory Committee advocates for the students in food services policy development,” Theriot-Smith said. “This is a great example of how students can positively affect issues that affect them on a daily basis.”

Economics junior and chair of the Food Services Advisory Committee Shane Smith proposed the bill.

It is comprised of four specific requests, some of which include additional options that are smaller and cost less. Smith said the Cougar 160 meal plan should be discounted to “reflect a steeper bulk-purchase discount that is closer in price per meal to non-mandated meal plans.”

Students like pre-communication sciences and disorders freshman Christian Guerrero are upset with the current meal plans that are offered.

The Cougar Choice 160 meal plan is the cheapest option available to freshman and sophomore students who live in Moody Towers, the Quadrangle, Cougar Villages 1 and 2 and Cougar Place. The students living in these dorms are required to purchase a meal plan.

He said he has more swipes than he knows what to do with thanks to his Cougar Choice 160 meal plan.

“I believe that it is an overpriced meal plan,” Guerrero said. “The 160 swipes is kind of impossible to use in one semester.”

These issues prompted the inclusion of a third request in the bill that asked the FSAC community, along with other University personnel and students, to review the “possibility of making substantial changes to the UH dining model.”

Two suggestions are a “meal equivalency or exchange program” through which students could use dining hall swipes in place of Cougar Cash and abolishing separate meal plans for mandated and non-mandated students “for the purposes of establishing a consistent price for the same food at the same dining halls.”

The Cougar 160 meal plan costs about $1,800 a semester and equates to about $8 per swipe. Compare this to the approximate $6 per swipe for the cheaper $960 Block 120 plan, which is only available to students who are not obligated to purchase a meal plan.

“(For) most of the friends that I have, there’s weeks left (until the end of the semester) and they still have over 100 swipes, so that’s about $800 that they paid for nothing,” Guerrero said.

The bill also asks for a policy revision that would allow any unused meals purchased through meal plans to be donated at the end of the semester and redistributed to “UH students having financial difficulty providing food for themselves” as determined by a neutral University entity.

Other potential suggestions include rolling over unused meal plan swipes every semester.

“This bill has more sponsors than any SGA legislation not only this year, but the last two years,” SGA Vice President Tanzeem Chowdhury said.

In response to the bill, UH Dining services said it is open to suggestions and that the act “opens up the opportunity for further discussions regarding (the) current dining program.”

“We solicit feedback annually and daily from our customers and also partner with the Food Service Advisory Committee to ensure we are consistently hearing and listening to our consumers,” Emily Fahner, marketing manager for UH Dining Services said. “We understand needs change and are always open to new ideas, suggestions and comments to improve our dining program.”

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