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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Staff Editorial: Our status with GW Dining? It’s complicated.

Five meal plans, four payment options and dozens of vendors to choose from: Was dining always this complex?

For better or for worse, a single word can sum up an institution: look no further than GW’s moniker, “Revolutionaries,” as an example. For the University’s dining program, that word isn’t affordable, flexible or convenient — it’s “complicated.”

With five meal plans, four different payment systems and dozens of GWorld vendors, finding a bite to eat around Foggy Bottom feels like an accounting exercise. Is it better to pay with meal swipes or dining dollars, cash or card? And just how much is one meal swipe worth?

The answer is that it depends on your meal plan. Mandatory for on-campus students, the plans run between $2,060 to $2,800 and come with several different combinations of meal swipes and dining dollars. Was dining always this complex? It certainly wasn’t as expensive before GW unveiled a trio of eateries in Thurston Hall, District House and finally Shenkman Hall over the last year. There’s a lot of money at stake here, and students deserve bang for their buck.

Granted, the University’s new dining venues and vendors have a value of their own. They’re modern, vibrant community spaces and a selling point for prospective students. But they’re not always great places to dine in — and they’ve come at a literal cost for students. Officials increased the entry fee students without meal swipes pay at dining halls this semester by between $2 and $5 for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They also nearly doubled the price of District House’s Meal Deals program from $8 to $15.

Skipping out on food to save money is hardly new at GW — food insecurity has been a persistent problem since the University closed its former dining hall, J Street, in 2016. These higher prices could be the difference between grabbing something to eat or missing a meal for cost-conscious students.

In a word, it wasn’t supposed to be like this. The shift from GW’s free-for-all, open campus system to an all-you-care-to-eat dining plan seemed poised to address food insecurity on campus. Instead of scrambling around for a meal, students could swipe in, grab a quick bite to eat and get back to their business. But so long as they balk at high prices, ration their dollars or swipes for the future or struggle to find appetizing dishes that meet their dietary needs, some students will continue to go hungry.

Meal plan or not, every student still has to budget their finances. Adding more GWorld or meal swipes to students’ accounts seems like a simple solution, but it’d only increase the cost of attendance — and wouldn’t help students stretch their funds further.

Officials should work with Chartwells Higher Education, which operates GW’s dining halls, to keep food prices at an affordable level. That may be a difficult decision to make — GW is likely looking to recoup some of its investment and Chartwells is a for-profit contractor — but it’s the right decision both for students and for the University’s future.

GW may be keen on marketing itself as apart from the crowd, but it shouldn’t be known as the school where students go hungry. Creating spaces for students to eat was the easy part. Now, it’s up to officials to ensure they can do so affordably.

The editorial board consists of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s staff editorial was written by Editorials Assistant Paige Baratta and Opinions Editor Ethan Benn based on discussions with Contributing Culture Editor Jenna Baer, Contributing Social Media Director Anaya Bhatt, Contributing Opinions Editor Riley Goodfellow and Social Media Director Ethan Valliath.

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