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EDITORIAL: To swipe, or not to swipe

Should Rutgers implement a meal swipe program at the Yard @ College Avenue?

Integrating meal swipes into the food vendors at the Yard could increase diversity and accessibility of food options on the College Avenue campus, but it could also potentially lead to several drawbacks. – Photo by Elliot Dong

Since the opening of The Atrium on the College Avenue Campus, there has been a rising cry for quality food options. Recently, a discussion emerged regarding whether introducing a meal swipe system for the food vendors in The Yard @ College Avenue could ameliorate the situation, or at least serve as a temporary relief.

Given the steep prices that do not align with the actual value of meal swipes, it is understandable that students would turn to other alternatives on the College Avenue campus, rather than enduring a time-consuming bus journey to another campus for better food options. Offering meal swipes at food establishments in the Yard could possibly mitigate the issue.

A temporary solution is necessary while Brower Commons on the College Avenue campus is out of commission and set to be completely demolished. As per the Rutgers 2030 Master Plan, a new dining hall will eventually replace it, providing a promising option for future students. But this offers little consolation to those who will graduate before construction on the new facility will even begin.

The Atrium not only poses several issues, as outlined in a previous editorial, but the options available for meal swipes on the College Avenue campus are also disappointingly inadequate.

Currently, these options are confined to the Atrium and Cafe West, located in the west wing of the Academic Building on the College Ave campus, the latter being closed on weekends and primarily offering just snacks and sandwiches. Unfortunately, these sandwiches fall short for vegetarians or those with dietary restrictions.

This situation differs greatly from other New Brunswick campuses, which not only have their own dining commons but also boast a variety of options such as the Douglass Cafe and Harvest Cafe on Douglass campus, Woody's on Busch campus and Henry's Diner on Livingston campus.

Some campuses have gone a step further by implementing meal swipe options into businesses within the student centers themselves. For instance, at the Livingston Student Center, students have the convenience of using a meal swipe to purchase food from Sbarro.

If businesses on other campuses can accept meal swipes, it begs the question: why can the establishments in the Yard not do the same? While the arguments in favor are compelling, there are considerations to be taken into account that may challenge the feasibility of this idea.

One consideration is the limited size of the Yard itself. If meal swipes were to be offered, this introduction could potentially lead to incredibly long lines, blocking paying customers who might not be part of the Rutgers community but live nearby. The Starbucks truck that travels from campus to campus consistently has long queues, meaning the situation at the Starbucks in the Yard could resemble this, resulting in a highly congested space.

The implementation of meal swipes at the Yard also does nothing to address the core issue of access to genuinely healthy food. The majority, if not all, of the businesses in the Yard, primarily serve sweet treats, and even those offering more substantial meals do not typically provide healthy options. Thus, the move for meal swipes would hardly assist students in meeting their daily vegetable intake, a challenge that is already present at Cafe West and the Atrium.

While the debate for whether the Yard should take meal swipes persists, it only serves to underscore the more significant issue: a shortage of affordable, healthy food options that cater to diverse cultural tastes and dietary requirements.

One possible avenue for improvement lies in the New Brunswick Community Farmers' Market which is sporadically set up at the College Avenue Student Center. Rutgers could negotiate with the organizers to have the market operate more regularly during the warmer months, enabling students to purchase fresh, locally-grown produce.

Offering frequent access to the farmers' market would be extremely beneficial for students living in apartments with kitchens to meet their vegetable intake, helping both those with and without meal plans.

Overall, there are several strategies that Rutgers could adopt to address the ongoing food issues on its campuses. While we may not see meal swipes at the Yard any time in the near future, actionable steps can and should be taken to mitigate the current food crisis that we face.

The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 156th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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