SGA votes to change student meal plans

Samford University’s Student Government Association passed a bill that would change the university’s meal plans at a Senate meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 7.

The Campus Service Committee’s bill would increase students’ dining dollars and allow students to spend them on and off campus.

Junior senator Danielle Starmer chartered the bill after speaking with students from multiple classes and majors.

“It’s important to us, and we’ve shown that through the town hall and the petition,” she said.

Starmer said students prioritize food services because they encounter them every day.

“We eat here the most, and fund the Caf,” she said.

Starmer said students influenced her bill but added that she also drew inspiration from Lispcomb Universtiy’s meal plan. Samford and Lispcomb’s unlimited meal plans both cost $2,432. However, Lispcomb students can receive up to $650 in dining dollars to spend on or off campus according to Lispcomb’s website. Samford students, on the other hand, receive $130 exclusively for on-campus eateries.

Samford and Lipscomb have similar tuitions: Samford is priced at $40,770 and Lipscomb costs $42,620 annually, according to the universities’ websites.

Starmer said she discussed off-campus dining dollars with Wade Walker, Samford’s director of business services. She said Walker suggested it to the administration, but they rejected it. They said students don’t eat off campus enough.

Starmer said she disagrees.

“From my experience and classmates, people eat off campus all the time,” she said.

However, Walker said he had considered allowing students to order Papa John’s pizza with their dining dollars.

Samford President Andrew Westmoreland said he also supported reevaluating meal plan prices at the Senate’s meeting on Oct. 31, since some students feel they’re overpriced.

“Those prices are negotiated annually,” he said.

Westmoreland said Sodexo must make a profit, but that he would work to find harmony.

As a nutrition and dietetics major, Starmer said she still supports off-campus dining from a health standpoint.

“Even if it’s nutritional, your body needs change to be healthy and for your body to perform at its best,” she said.

A diverse diet promotes good health, according to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

In addition to health benefits, Starmer said off-campus dining connects students with Birmingham.

“Students would explore Birmingham’s culture … and support local businesses,” she said.

Through these experiences, Starmer said students would invest more in Birmingham. However, Starmer said students should prioritize both off and on-campus dining.

“The Caf is part of the Samford community,” she said.

Since she’s on the culinary council, Starmer meets regularly with Sodexo management, and she said Sodexo has improved food services.

“You can get a get a full day’s nutrition by eating in the Caf,” she said.

In a letter addressed to SGA, Michael Scheffres, Sodexo’s general manager, said Sodexo will advertise more options for vegans, vegetarians and students with allergies. They also addressed cross-contamination by separating the allergen-free foods.

However, Starmer said the Caf needs to educate students about healthy options.

“That’s a challenge Sodexo must overcome. They need to advertise,” she said.

Scheffres said he’s prioritizing communication, and will hire someone to help students in the Caf.

Starmer said allowing students’ input would erode the communication barrier. She said Samford has a diverse community and should contribute ideas.

“Adding more minds expedites change,” she said. “By empowering students’ voices, you encourage independence.”

Besides voicing students’ opinions, Starmer said she’s also willing to listen to the administration’s concerns.

“It’s not perfect, but with every idea there’s obstacles,” she said.

If students take initiative in a respectful manner, Starmer believes that change will follow.

“The student body has the greatest power at Samford. Students can serve as a catalyst for change, and we shouldn’t take that lightly,” Starmer said. “We should exercise it, but in a humble, innovative and democratic way.”

The bill will now be submitted to administration for further approval.

William Marlow, Staff Writer

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