UC Berkeley can’t cut corners when it comes to feeding its students

CAMPUS ISSUES: The campus’s new meal plan undermines the administration’s goals to combat food insecurity.

Alexander Hong/Staff

How many meals a day should a UC Berkeley student get to eat?

Nutritionists (and anxious parents) might say three. Busy students might argue that they’d be fine with just two — especially if it means they can sleep through breakfast.

The campus, however, seems to think that students only need 12 meals per week. That’s 1.7 meals per day.

In Cal Dining’s new basic meal plan, students are limited to 12 swipes into the dining halls per week. To-go boxes are no longer an option at all, so students who are rushing to class or to their jobs can no longer pick up food from the dining commons. And the new meal swipes don’t roll over into the following week. If a student doesn’t use all 12 swipes in a week, for whatever reason, they simply lose those swipes.

UC Berkeley spokesperson Adam Ratliff said in an email that this system is intended to ensure that students “have nutritious meals every day.” But the system also punishes students for not using all 12 weekly swipes by ensuring that they have fewer nutritious meals in a semester. This seems vastly counterproductive to the campus’s recent efforts to prevent food insecurity, which include opening a basic needs center next to the UC Berkeley Food Pantry.

And it’s not as if students who don’t like the new system can just opt out — for students who live on campus, the meal plan is included in their housing contracts.

The new meal plan does come with “flex dollars,” which can be used at The Golden Bear café and Bear Market, among other campus stores. Students can also buy more meal swipes if they run out during the week. But even if students used these flex dollars exclusively as meal swipes, they’d only have access to one extra meal per week and five additional meals at the end of the semester. With this new system, UC Berkeley has removed students’ autonomy in budgeting their meals.

Ratliff also said in his email that with the previous meal points system, students would “use all of their points very quickly at the beginning of a semester, and thus face food insecurity later in the year.” But if students were facing food insecurity with the previous plan, perhaps it’s because the plan simply wasn’t providing them with enough food. Budgeting meals on behalf of students isn’t a solution to food insecurity — it merely redistributes the problem across the semester, making students a little bit food-insecure each week.

Classes, homework, extracurriculars, jobs. With so many things — other than food — on their plates, students shouldn’t also have to worry about where their next meal is coming from.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.