VCU dining plan holders left behind more than 230,000 swipes last fall

VCU students wait in line after ordering food at Market 810, a popular dining location on campus with options for those who have meal plans. Photo by Kaitlyn Fulmore

Katharine DeRosa, News Editor

More than 232,000 VCU meal swipes went unclaimed by dining plan holders in the fall semester, according to a university spokesperson. That figure, equating to roughly $2.3 million worth of food, has increased by nearly 14,000 swipes since fall 2019.

Each swipe is equivalent to $10.05, according to VCU Dine. Students can swipe to enter Market 810 or redeem a meal at a supported location on campus. 

Dining plans are required for students living in some on-campus buildings, including Brandt, Johnson and Rhoads — three buildings that primarily house freshmen. Plans are priced between $2,090 and $2,560. 

VCU sold 4,109 dining plans last fall and 8,541 plans in the fall of 2019, VCU spokesperson Stephen Barr stated in an email. That is a 107% decrease. 

Barr stated 232,029 swipes were left over in the fall and 218,067 were left over in fall 2019. Meal plan holders left 56 swipes behind on average last semester, compared to 25 swipes in the fall 2019 semester. 

“It’s either this or pay for groceries and make my own food,” said sophomore theatre major Jacob Campero. “It’s not the ideal amount of money I’m paying for what I’m getting.”

Campero said he purchased a plan with 250 swipes and $300 in additional spending. He’s used about 100 swipes so far and left 20 behind last semester. 

VCU implemented changes to spring semester locations and hours on Feb. 15 after evaluating transaction counts and student survey responses: weekend hours were added to Market 810, Pizza Hut closed down and Bleecker St. opened inside of Market 810.

Campero and his friend, freshman theatre major Sophia Conrow, are happy about Bleecker St. opening inside of Shafer but are underwhelmed by the rest of the changes. 

“I’m a Bleecker’s fanatic,” Campero said. “I literally live for Bleecker.” 

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The two said that eating meals together is their only form of physical interaction during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the one-person-per-table rule inside of Market 810 prevents them from sitting together. 

The rule prevents roommates and other people who may already be exposed to one another from sitting together as well, Campero said.

The one-person-per-table rule was decided through consultation with VCU’s Public Health Response Team, VCU spokesperson Anna Obermiller stated in an email. 

“The mental health of our students is probably really bad, because you can’t even eat with your friends,” Conrow said. “Now I know a lot of people just have to take their food and sit in their dorm and eat alone.”

Conrow said she understood the increased rules but wishes the university had communicated the changes more effectively before students returned to campus. 

As a theatre major, Campero said he often has early morning rehearsals on the weekends and finds it difficult to eat breakfast on those mornings. Market 810 opens at 10:30 a.m. and closes at 6 p.m. on weekends, according to VCU Dine.

Conrow said she regularly eats at Market 810, Shake Smart and Einstein Bros. Bagels for lunch and “wings it” for dinner.

“I go to Avo, but they eat your swipes so I try not to go there too much, because I don’t have enough swipes for that,” Conrow said.

An entry swipe is required from students in order to enter Avo Kitchen, and additional swipes are required if students choose to get food from the Chef’s Table, which offers a selection of steak, seafood and other proteins. The other two stations in Avo Kitchen, True Balance — which is free of the top eight allergens — and Green Leaf, are available with the initial entry swipe. 

Despite the changes, the two view their meal plans as a convenience to daily life and plan to purchase one next semester.

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