Jterm meals – Is not swiping worth it?

Many are opting to source their own meals instead of eating on-campus, but is it saving them money?

COMMUNITY: Baker 2nd enjoy a "family dinner," during J-Term, 2015. (Photo by Matt Whitney)
COMMUNITY: Residents of Baker 2nd enjoy a “family dinner” during J-Term, 2015. (Photo by Matt Whitney)

Nearly 700 students are enrolled in a Jterm course for 2015, during which meals are included for full-time students. If students do not eat on campus during Jterm, they receive 100 flex dollars.

But does this save students money?

Last year, there were 549 students studying on campus. Of those, only 225 ate on campus. Blair Stairs, general manager of Sodexo dining services, said breakfast meal swipes cost $5.50, lunch costs $8 and dinner is $10.40. Jterm meal swipes are free if the student is full-time in the fall and spring semester, Margaret Pasko, administrative assistant, said.

Senior Breanna Amico, who hasn’t eaten on-campus for Jterm in four years, said she makes a point to not spend more than $100 on food over the month of January.

“Based on what I have spent so far and what I anticipate spending in the future,” she said, “it should end up [being] about 75 dollars.”

With the 100 flex dollars, students can buy approximately 10-15 meals on campus, but the Dining Commons and Norm’s Place aren’t the only places that students can spend flex. Until this year, the bookstore accepted flex dollars for all purchases except textbooks, allowing students to spend leftover flex on apparel, art supplies and disks for Frisbee golf.

Junior Megan Gerig attributes the bookstore not accepting flex as a deciding factor in her choosing to eat on-campus this year.

“I will not be spending the 100 [flex] dollars on food,” she said, “so some of it would go to waste either way.”

Places such as Café of Hope, Four Cups and Pizza Hut accept flex as well, but with a 10 percent mark-up.

“I love coffee, and the bulk of my flex is always spent at Four Cups,” Amico said.

Sophomore Sam Jones said eating on campus is more practical.

“I’m eating on campus because it just seemed impractical to buy my own food for the whole month of January,” Jones said. “I would probably spend close to $100 buying food for myself all to get 100 flex dollars that actually amounts to less than  100 actual dollars.”

It’s not just the cost and effort that pushes students to the Dining Commons and Norm’s Place. Junior Lukas Salazar made the decision to eat on-campus because of the lack of flex dollar options, specifically the bookstore’s refusal to accept flex.

“I don’t drink coffee, and I’m cutting pizza from my diet so basically flex is worthless to me now, and there’s no point in me not swiping,” he said.

But cost isn’t the only factor. Many students participate in community dinners where students eat together using communal funds to purchase ingredients, relying on culinary-minded students to prepare meals.

Senior Joseph Brenneman has been participating in floor dinners on Baker 2nd. Brenneman said he has enjoyed pork tacos, pico de mayo and homemade chili on the floor.

“It is good food and good people,” he said. “Enough said.”

Students will be allowed to eat on campus without losing the 100 flex dollars during dinner Jan. 21.


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