New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Opinion: I lost 112 meal swipes last semester. They should roll over.

Meals are going to waste. It’s time for the university to revisit how meal swipes are distributed. 


Joshua Plutchik

(Joshua Plutchik for WSN)

Molly Koch, Deputy Opinion Editor

WSN’s Opinion section strives to publish ideas worth discussing. The views presented in the Opinion section are solely the views of the writer.

NYU’s meal plans are confusing. There’s lots of different options, some with “Flex” variants, which add Dining Dollars. They’re especially difficult to navigate as a first-year student, new to college and required to purchase a plan — and even more so when you forget that your meal swipes do not carry over from the previous semester.

I had 112 swipes left at the end of my first semester in fall 2022. I wasn’t especially concerned about using them all, because I thought I’d just get to use them this spring. So when I realized that NYU takes them all away at the end of the semester, I was surprised and disappointed.

The webpage explaining meal plans does say that meal swipes aren’t carried over — something I would’ve thought to look up if I hadn’t been sure that NYU would have made the natural, obvious choice to let me carry over meals I’d already paid for into the following semester.

Unused meals are going to waste, even while NYU’s own scholarship has shown that more than a quarter of its student body faces food insecurity. NYU’s dining services office has no reason to take away paid-for meals from students. All leftover portions of meal plans should be set to follow into the next term — especially over the course of a single academic year.

“I feel like NYU should have created the meal plan so that swipes carry over into the next semester,” said Liberal Studies first-year Aria Tameze. “If so, they could reimburse students the money from the unused meal swipes at the end of the year.”

NYU’s solution to unused meal swipes has been to ask students to donate to the Swipe it Forward program, which allows any student to anonymously request a free meal at a dining hall. Although the program may need some advancements — it isn’t yet available in the first weeks of the semester or at every dining location — it’s generally effective, and sees a lot of usage. Nearing the end of the fall semester, since I had so many meal swipes left, I was able to donate 10 meals at a time to Upstein, as opposed to the usual three, but it was nothing more than a fraction of my total balance.

If meal swipes carried over, not only would students still be able to use and benefit from the Swipe it Forward program, but a lot of unnecessary worrying about unused swipes would be eliminated.

“I understand that if meal swipes carried over, the financial benefit of the program could be affected, with certain swipes not going towards it. However, I do not believe there would be an overloading of the system,” Valentina Kraiselburd, another Liberal Studies first-year, said. “It might just mean that students have less meal swipes in the next semester, but I feel like it won’t be that large of a disruptor.”

Our neighbors at Columbia University and Barnard College allow students with certain plans to make use of unused swipes from a previous semester if they run out. Swipes still expire at the end of the academic year.

There are ways to make the most out of your meal swipes over the course of each semester. But this isn’t always possible for every student, especially with most dining halls closed over weekends and after 9 p.m., before some classes end. Sometimes, you just don’t have the energy to go to the dining hall three times a day. NYU already allows Dining Dollars to be carried over. Allowing the system to flow swipes from the previous semester as well would benefit all students — and especially first-years.

[Read more: Meal Plans aren’t useless — you’re just using them wrong]

No amount of giveaways on the NYU Eats Instagram account will fill the void that is widened when meal swipes don’t carry over from semester to semester. My $1.29 carrying over in Dining Dollars comes nowhere close to the meals I could receive with my revoked 112 swipes. 

Contact Molly Koch at [email protected].
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About the Writer
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Molly Koch, Opinion Editor

Molly Koch is a junior in Gallatin concentrating in journalism as an art form. They’re fascinated by classical literature and its influence on the power...

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