Sunday, May 31

Dining Services, ASUCLA Meal Numeration Coupon Program grows stale

A program to exchange meal swipes for campus food vouchers has declined due to better dining hall hours. (Conor Cusack/Daily Bruin)

Students 30 years ago regularly exchanged meal swipes for campus food vouchers. Today, few students use the program, favoring improved dining hall hours and meals on the Hill, dining officials said.

The Meal Numeration Coupon Program, created by UCLA Dining Services and Associated Students UCLA, allows students to trade one meal swipe for a $2.45 voucher. Students can use vouchers at ASUCLA-owned restaurants on campus, such as Northern Lights and Bomb Shelter in south campus, said Cindy Bolton, director of food service for ASUCLA.

On average, a meal plan swipe is worth about $10, depending on which meal plan students purchase. Students who use the program trade in a swipe for a $2.45 discount on campus food options.

Officials founded the program over 30 years ago to give students more dining options. In the 1980s, students could only purchase the 19 regular meal plan, said Charles Wilcots, associate director of Dining Services Administration.

“During that time, many residents didn’t have the opportunity to return to the dining halls due to the limited dining hours,” Wilcots said.

Wilcots said ASUCLA and UCLA Dining Services avoid spending money on advertising the program to keep costs low.

Many students are unaware of the program or feel the financial trade-off isn’t worth it, Bolton said.

Jasmin Shakib, a second-year psychology student, said she would not use the program because she doesn’t eat on campus often enough to justify giving up swipes.

Jacqueline Garcia, a third-year sociology student, said she has not used the program herself, but noted students who have dozens of extra swipes at the end of the quarter could take advantage of it.

In 1998 and 2008, the ASUCLA Board of Directors voted to increase the value of the voucher from $1.85. Coupons are currently valued at $2.45 for ASCULA-owned restaurants, and $2.15 for third-party restaurants like Panda Express and Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill, Bolton said.

In 2010, students only used 419 meal coupons, out of dining service’s nearly 3 million dining hall visits.

Wilcots said he does not foresee these numbers rising, mostly because of low student participation and the increased availability of to-go dining options like De Neve Grab ‘n’ Go, Rendezvous and Bruin Café.

“The dining program has evolved, so now residents have an option of dining on the Hill from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m.,” Wilcots said. “Something’s always open for them.”

Bolton also said it is unlikely ASUCLA will increase the value of the vouchers, because they are already offering a significant discount on food and student demand is too low.

“The usage of the coupon has gone down to virtually zero,” Bolton said. “There’s hardly anybody anymore.”

Bolton said the demand for the Meal Numeration Coupon Program may be low, but she does not anticipate UCLA Housing or ASUCLA to end the program because it does not cost ASUCLA or UCLA Dining Services much money.

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