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UCLA Dining plans to reduce meal swipe monetary value by more than half

Panda Express, an ASUCLA restaurant, is pictured. Students’ meal plan swipes will soon be worth $4.33 at all ASUCLA restaurants. (Brandon Morquecho/Photo editor)

By Patrick Woodham

April 21, 2024 7:15 p.m.

This post was updated April 21 at 11:43 p.m.

UCLA Dining is planning to lower the value of on-campus meal swipes by more than 50%, but students said they are already not getting enough value out of their swipes.

Meal swipes will be worth $4.33 instead of $9 as soon as the system reverts to pre-pandemic staffing levels, a UCLA Dining spokesperson said in an emailed statement. The current value of swipes was only to alleviate pandemic-era capacity issues, the spokesperson said in the statement, adding that the new value of swipes would be $3.73 – with ASUCLA contributing an extra $0.60 to help students eat affordably.

UCLA Dining did not clarify when it believes the system will go back to pre-pandemic staffing.

Students are currently able to exchange one swipe for $9 in value from ASUCLA dining locations on campus, including LuValle Commons and the Court of Sciences Student Center, as well as at the UCLA Store as of Tuesday.

[Related: UCLA Store to accept on-campus meal swipes in market]

Some students living on the Hill said they already do not feel they get enough value for money from their meal swipes. Hill residents can currently choose between purchasing 11, 14 or 19 meals per week on either a regular or premium plan, with the latter allowing students to swipe multiple times per meal period.

Total costs of meal plans can range between $5,052.48 and $6,333.84 per year, according to the UCLA Dining website – equating to roughly $14 per meal.

Aaden Poyuzina, a first-year political science and public affairs student, said he selected the 11R meal plan – 11 meals on a regular plan – but he feels the swipe exchange does not offer enough value.

“It’s not enough. It’s really annoying when you try to get literally anything, and it’s slightly over $9,” Poyuzina said. “That’s very inconvenient.”

The variety of available meal plans is designed to provide students with options and flexibility, allowing them to choose meals based on individual food preferences rather than being constrained by a dollar-based system, the UCLA Dining spokesperson said in the statement. Students like Poyuzina on an 11R meal plan said they chose it because of the low cost in comparison to the other meal plans.

However, Charlie Updegraff, a first-year international development studies student, said she does not feel it is fair that students on the cheapest meal plan are not able to swipe multiple times in one meal period. She added that she feels the ability to compound swipes would help ensure she can get value for money on her meal plan.

“I feel bad I wasted money because the swipes are gone,” Updegraff said. “But then it’s like, what: I should pay the $500 to have it for the whole year?”

Yujiro Nakano, a first-year neuroscience student, said although he thinks the value of each swipe is too low, he has found ways to take advantage of dining halls to ensure he is not hungry.

“I like to stay in the dining halls especially for a very long time, maybe upwards of three to four hours. … I try to get as much as food in me and maybe get two meals out of it from one swipe,” Nakano said. “I just bring stuff in to study or pass the time, maybe (bring) a book, a phone. That’s usually how I spend my meals.”

Poyuzina added that he also relies on bringing food to his dorm, including microwavable pizza and instant ramen, to supplement his meal plan. Buying stuff from stores such as Costco, which sells goods in bulk, allows him to supplement his meal plan more affordably than buying a more expensive meal plan, he added.

“That’s obviously unhealthy, but you got to eat,” Poyuzina said. “It is kind of what you have to do.”

When asked about any changes that could be made to the meal plan system as a whole, Poyuzina said he wished the cheapest option had more meals.

“14R should be the cheapest one, rather than 11R,” he said. “I don’t want to take that step and spend more to get 14R, but you should be able to eat a consistent amount throughout the week on using the cheapest meal plan.”

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Patrick Woodham
Woodham is a News contributor on the features and student life beat and a Copy contributor. He is also a first-year African American studies and public affairs student from Brooklyn, New York.
Woodham is a News contributor on the features and student life beat and a Copy contributor. He is also a first-year African American studies and public affairs student from Brooklyn, New York.
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