Tuesday, March 21, 2023

NewsSportsArtsOpinionThe QuadPhotoVideoIllustrationsCartoonsGraphicsThe StackPRIMEEnterpriseInteractivesPodcastsBruinwalkClassifieds


March Madness

Opinion: ASUCLA voucher value must be adjusted to reflect increasing cost of meals

Associated Students UCLA tickets in two plastic holders are pictured. UCLA should increase the value of meal vouchers as on-campus meal prices increase. (Megan Cai/Assistant Photo editor)

By Shivani Kapur

March 9, 2023 8:43 p.m.

Panda Express, Bruin Buzz and Blaze Pizza are go-to options for a quick and convenient meal amid a busy day on campus.

Bruins spend between $4,900 to $6,200 annually for a meal plan – and yet, it is far too common to buy food with an Associated Students UCLA meal ticket worth $9 only to have to pay the remaining balance out-of-pocket.

While the price of on-campus food has increased relative to previous years, the value of the ASUCLA meal ticket has not changed. As a result, students’ purchasing power has decreased, exacerbating the financial burdens on low-income students and their risk of experiencing food insecurity.

Because of inflation – the general increase in the price level of goods and services over time – meal plan holders must pay more money for the same amount of food.

UCLA has a responsibility toward its students who pay for a meal plan to reflect the increased price of on-campus food in the value of the ASUCLA ticket.

To do so, the institution should closely monitor food prices and inflation rates over time and make adjustments to meal plan pricing. By conducting regular data analysis and collaborating with food vendors to identify opportunities for cost saving, reduction of food waste and more affordable food options, the financial burden that disproportionately impacts low-income students could be greatly alleviated.

While small price differences may not seem consequential, the cumulative effect of paying a few extra dollars for each meal could have a significant impact on students’ long-term budgets since those funds could be allocated to other dire financial responsibilities.

In addition, requiring students to pay out-of-pocket for meals can lead to malnutrition and skipping meals.

“Even if I have to stay on campus for something later, I’m more likely to not eat at all or maybe go to Epicuria in Ackerman than I am to eat at any of the food places,” said first-year human biology and society student Natalie Gurzeler.

Food costs that are unadjusted to inflation lead to a more food-insecure campus, with students’ physical and mental health taking the fall.

UCLA must prioritize the needs of its students and provide easy access to affordable food by ensuring that the value of ASUCLA meal tickets keeps up with the rising inflation of on-campus food prices. This would not only ease the financial strain on students but also foster a healthier and more vibrant campus community.

According to an emailed statement from UCLA Dining Services, however, the university currently has no plan of action to adjust the value of the ASUCLA ticket relative to the increase in meal prices on campus.

While eating in a dining hall on the Hill allows for a fully covered meal, students must choose their meals based on the value of the meal tickets for on-campus dining facilities, diminishing the convenience factor that the tickets are intended to provide.

However, for some students, the extra increase in price is seen as the cost of being able to eat on-campus and not having to walk back to the Hill to eat at the dining halls.

“Time is money,” said first-year business economics student Ashley Pham. “It’s just such a long walk. It’s like 20 to 25 minutes to come back here (to the Hill) and go all the way back down. Like it just, convenience-wise, wouldn’t make sense to me, so I wouldn’t mind paying that difference.”

Regardless of the convenience of tickets, it is UCLA’s responsibility to ensure the fair price of all meals on campus. Students rely on the university to safeguard them from the overpricing of food.

Currently, Epicuria at Ackerman is the only restaurant on campus that allows students to swipe their BruinCards for a full meal.

Being able to receive a guaranteed full meal for a swipe contributes to the exceedingly long lines at Epicuria, especially compared to other restaurants on campus that do not fully cover meal prices. Implementing a policy in which students can swipe their BruinCards across all ASUCLA restaurants may help to equally distribute wait times and alleviate the burden on workers at high-demand restaurants.

Students already face numerous responsibilities and issues they must address every day. Food insecurity should not be one of them.

Share this story:FacebookTwitterRedditEmail
Shivani Kapur
Featured Classifieds
Condo/Townhouse for Rent

Furnished Room to Rent in Century City Condo. $1500/month. 2 blocks from Westfield mall. Queen bed, TV, wifi, access to living room and kitchen areas, private bathroom, private balcony, full gym on first floor, outdoor heated jacuzzi, secure underground parking space. Available April 1st Cliff @ 310-666-7003 [email protected]

More classifieds »
Related Posts