As students returned to campus for the Fall 2022 semester, many noticed a drastic change in menus at the Launch, the Den, and the Bulldog Market. These changes included many new additions such as the la Sabrosa menu in the Launch, additional breakfast items in the Den, and ramen bowls and boba sold at the Bulldog market.
Despite this expansion in menus, the university’s third-party dining vendor, Harvest Table, has limited the accessibility of these new menu items, making it more difficult to purchase items with a meal plan compared to prior years.
Students at the university with on-campus housing are required to purchase a meal plan each semester. Plans range from 100 meals per semester to unlimited dining with costs spanning from $1,373 to $2,600. Meal swipes can be redeemed at all dining locations on campus, including unlimited dining at the Commons. In addition to these meal swipes, each dining plan includes an additional $250 in “dining dollars” that can be used to purchase snacks, drinks, and other items on campus that are not categorized as “meals.”
Of the some 20-plus additions to menus across campus, many of these items are not available for purchase with a meal swipe. Harvest Table has instead adopted a ranked meal system, allowing for smaller meals such as the Jr. Cheeseburger or the Egg and Cheese Sandwich to be purchased with a meal swipe, while larger, more filling meals such as the Bulldog Double Cheeseburger or the Whole Wheat Turkey Club Sandwich can only be purchased using dining dollars.
Prior to this year, meal items in the Launch, Den, and Bulldog Market had all been available for purchase with both a meal swipe and dining dollars. Now, students’ choices are much more limited when it comes to purchasing meals outside of the Irvine Commons. Given the limited amount of dining dollars available, students must choose between eating the same couple meals available with a meal swipe in the Den or Launch, or using their dining dollars to purchase meals rather than snacks and other small items.
This change has led to a negative response from the student body.
When asked about the new limited menus at the dining facilities around campus, a senior at the university, Sydney Horst, expressed that “it’s just really frustrating because [the university] keep[s] changing everything.”
Gabriel Baker, a sophomore, explained that he has already spent nearly half of his available dining dollars on meal items in the Launch, Den, and Bulldog Market. He commented that “it’s unfair, [the university] needs to make every meal available with a meal swipe.”
Maddie Zvalo, another senior here, voiced her concerns regarding the menu changes, stating that “it would be nice if [the university] listened to students and took into account what we have to say.” Maddie explained that throughout her four years here, students have been unhappy with the meal options and have expressed their concerns, yet when the university finally made a change, “they made changes no one likes.”
As a result of the negative response to Harvest Table’s decision to limit items available for purchase with a meal swipe, ASUR President Derrick Ball met with members of Harvest Table’s executive board on September 14 in hopes of voicing student concerns. Board members at this meeting included the Guest Experience Manager Nicole Hoss, Executive Director of Hospitality Amber Young, Retail Manager Adrienne Knight, Executive Chef Robert Sevaly, and Registered Dietician Colin Nye.
As a result of this meeting, Harvest Table’s executive board agreed to a compromise in hopes of addressing some of the concerns raised by students in recent weeks.
Effective immediately, Harvest Table will be making the Nachos, Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Sandwich, and Applegate Ham and Cheese Melt available with a meal swipe. Additionally, all meals not available with a meal swipe will have the option to be “upgraded” using dining dollars. So, rather than purchasing the entire meal using dining dollars, students will be able to purchase upgraded meals using both a meal swipe and a few additional dining dollars.
All of these changes will be available in person and through the Grubhub app.
Harvest Table has also recently selected students to participate in a boba taste test committee to get specific feedback on how to improve the boba tea now available at the Bulldog Market.
Additionally, ASUR is reinstating the Food Action Committee in order to provide more opportunities for students to voice their concerns regarding food options on campus. This student-led committee will focus on taking students’ concerns regarding the quality of food and types of food offered on campus directly to Harvest Table’s executive board.
For students interested in participating in the Food Action Committee, contact Derrick Ball at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Photo by Photo Editor Kyle Eaton.