Amy Sword, finance junior, relies on student loans to help purchase a meal plan and gets frustrated when she cannot finish it. Sword had 150 meals left the week of finals her first semester, so she felt obligated to use them and swiped for coworkers.
“The next semester I got a smaller meal plan, but I still swiped for everyone because I knew there was no way I would ever finish them by myself,” Sword said. “It’s annoying, because I paid for those meals.”
There were 92,236 unused meal trades left at the end of spring of this year. The number of meal trades left over at the end of the academic year has been declining since 2007, when there were 138,484 unused meal trades.
“You look at it as meals left over — we look at it as the way we operate,” said Leslie Bulkley, Chartwells resident district manager. “We need them to operate.”
John Root, director of Auxiliary Services, said the number of meal trades left over is low compared to previous years and not unusual for the size of the school.
“Even though 92,000 looks like a big number, the number of meals that are used is much bigger,” Root said. “The number we start with is close to a million.”
Root said the decision to allow meal trades to roll over from the fall to spring semester is because of the higher numbers at the end of each fall.
The number of unused meal trades at the end of fall 2009 semester was 230,332. The most amount of unused meal trades occurred in fall 2007, with 264,000 remaining.
“We allowed meal trades to roll over because of these numbers,” Root said. “We knew this would be well received by the students, and it would be fair. It’s also something we can do financially without raising meal plan prices to compensate for it.”
Bulkley said while the university and Chartwells want to help students get through their meal trades as efficiently as possible, they depend on left over meal trades to operate.
“We still strive to serve as many meals as possible, but there’s not one account in the whole United States that I can tell you has 100 percent of meals eaten,” Bulkley said. “That’s the way food service works.”
The unused funds from meal trades help give the dining halls accessibility to students at “odd hours,” she said.
She said the funds from unused meal trades go towards labor and operation costs during times when dining halls are open for students when it would not be making money.
“Right now we’re opening Jones at 10 a.m. and we’re only seeing three people,” Bulkley said. “Do you think it’s worth our time to open for three people for breakfast? That’s not even reasonable. Nobody in a corporate world would open for that. We need the excess to be able to offer this service.”
Bulkley said she was hired after the 2007 school year and worked to make changes in the dining halls to allow students to get through more of their meal trades.
One of the changes allowed students to use meal trades on the second floor of the LBJ Student Center before 1 p.m. Bulkley said offering national brands like Pizza Hut on the second floor has helped reduce long lines which deterred students from using meal trades in the past.
Root said he and Bulkley rely on averages when looking at how many meal trades are left over. Root said lowering available meal plans to the average number of meal trades consumed would leave some students hungry.
“Let’s say in a 100 meal block, the average student eats 85 meals,” Root said. “That means yes, some are eating below that, but that also means some are eating more than that. You don’t really want people to run out.”