Some students staying on campus over break are anticipating the next six weeks to bring a new wave of difficulties surrounding affordable access to food, even with a weekly university stipend to offset the costs.
Meal swipes at Leo O’Donovan Dining Hall closed on Nov. 22, nearly three weeks before the end of classes, and will not open again until classes resume in late January. Although the university is offering a weekly financial stipend of $175 to students staying on campus over break, worries about ease of food access and lack of diversity in dining choices still concern many students.
During the fall semester, students living on campus were able to get food through a combination of meal swipes at Leo’s and flex dollars at Epicurean & Co. at Royal Jacket and using their debit dollars, which are pre-loaded onto students’ GoCards.
Once Thanksgiving came, everything but Royal Jacket closed, prompting many on campus to raise concerns over access to food, especially with classes scheduled to continue for nearly two more weeks after break ended. In response, the university began a weekly stipend for students remaining on campus. According to a university spokesperson, the weekly stipend to students of $105 in flex dollars and $70 in debit dollars is meant to help ensure access to food during the upcoming winter break.
Flex dollars can be spent at Royal Jacket and the Hoyas @ Home grocery delivery service, which offers students a small range of produce, frozen meals, and toiletries. Debit dollars can be spent at participating businesses located in and around the Georgetown neighborhood. Students on campus are automatically enrolled into the program, which began Nov. 23.
For Shoma Oura (SFS ‘24), who’s staying on campus over break, these constraints present a challenge. “If you don’t want to cook, your options for food are really scarce,” Oura said in an interview with the Voice.
Royal Jacket and the Hoyas @ Home grocery-to-go program both offer fairly limited options for students, confining student food choices for the next six weeks.
Oura, an international student from Japan, initially struggled with the lack of familiar foods available through the Hoyas @ Home program. “If you want items that are not included in the grocery service, you have to buy it yourself,” he noted.
The system also means students have to spend time cooking for themselves during finals, which has not been the case for underclassmen in previous years. If a student wants to eat three pre-prepared meals a day, it will cost them just under $25 each day, or the full $175 a week, leaving no money for snacks or toiletries.
“Financially, it’s kind of a trouble,” Oura said. “Since now I have to cook for myself and I have a lot of finals, my time management will be very tough.”nor
The GUSA socioeconomic policy team has advocated for a grocery stipend for students on campus in the last few months, but according to GUSA Press Secretary Jacob Bernard (SFS ‘23), there have been no developments on this.