On campus dining selections are not optimal. I am a sophomore on campus who has continued to grow discontent with the dining experience. My vexation deals with meal periods, meal equivalency and late night or weekend dining options.

The designated dining times can be inconvenient, which leads to wasted meal swipes. From 7-10:30 a.m. students are allotted time to use their first meal swipe for breakfast. From 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. students can use their second swipe and from 4:30-8 p.m. final meal swipe may be used. 

Most students cannot exercise the first time slot due to classes being taken in the morning. Furthermore, for a two hour time period from 2:30-4:30 p.m., the cafeterias are not making fresh food as dinner is being prepared. 

Most of my friends on campus do not finish their classes until three in the afternoon, which leaves them with mere snacks to use as sustenance until the final meal period. Two-thirds of meal swipes on any given day are unused. Additionally, when a student does not use a swipe, there is no transfer or carry over for the missed meal, which is a missed opportunity to eat as well as a waste of money.

A way to combat students wasting meal swipes would be to implement a system that allows the meal equivalencies to stack when a swipe is unused in a day. For instance, if a student were to miss the breakfast and lunch swipes, the meal values of $4.35 and $4.85 would be conjoined with the dinner meal value of $4.85 so that the student has the opportunity to spend $14.05 at the restaurants that take meal swipes in the Student Union and Presidential Court. This way the student would not have to use alternative methods of payment.

In conjunction with missing meals, at most restaurants on campus, students are not allowed to use meal equivalency swipes until the dinner period. When my friends and I are hungry and want to avoid the mediocre food in cafeterias, we are forced to forego the meal swipe and use Dining Dollars or our actual money. This hassle expedites the depletion of funds.

Cafeterias may be more out of reach for students than restaurants on campus and restaurants are more appetizing than the menus in cafeterias. However, Quiznos, Dippers and Mabel’s are the sole options that offer lunch time equivalency. To minimize wasted meal swipes, more fast food options should accept the lunch meal equivalency. 

Also, Southern Kitchen is a positive alternative to fast food, as well as the traditional cafeteria. An entire meal can be acquired with the meal equivalency. Another Southern Kitchen-type restaurant would benefit the campus, but instead of “soul food” the other diner could focus on a selection that juxtaposes southern-styled foods. This fictional restaurant could specialize in foods such as Philly cheesesteaks, mozzarella sticks, wings and any other modernized food. These additions could transform the dining experience to one that is more accommodating to the lives of its student body.

Late night and weekend meal options are not favorable either. Once the on campus restaurants and cafeterias close, the options for food are all on Cumberland Avenue, otherwise known as The Strip. There is a cornucopia of nosh selections on this street. The drawback to these enticing restaurants is that they do not accept meal swipes nor dining dollars, forcing students to spend their personal funds for food.

Should the University and restaurants on Cumberland Avenue collaborate and form a system that allowed students to use dining dollars and meal swipes for late night and weekends, businesses would witness an increase in food ordering activity that would benefit both students and restaurants.

Students would be more inclined to eat on The Strip, which would lead to more customers as well as revenue for the designated restaurants. The opportunity to use the equivalency can be from eight at night until the closing time of that restaurant. This slight adjustment would serve the Volunteer community well.

If there were some adjustments in the dining options, meal plans and equivalency options the University would see more upperclassmen students opt-in for meal plans. The student body would feel as if meal plans were not bunco choices and achieving this dining stasis would not disappoint the members of this community.

Antonio Terrell Jr. is a Sophomore majoring in Finance. He can be reached at aterre11@vols.utk.edu

Columns and letters of The Daily Beacon are the views of the individual and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Beacon or the Beacon's editorial staff.

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