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OPINION: Give students equal access to Champion’s Choice

USF Dining Services needs to stop trying to squeeze money out of students by making non-athletes pay extra to eat at Champion’s Choice. ORACLE PHOTO/LEDA ALVIM

Champion’s Choice used to be the place students went to eat at after a morning class or a quick jog on the treadmill at The Rec, but USF Dining Services has now made the dining hall exclusive to athletes, unless a non-athlete forks over an additional $80 per semester for access.

Arguably one of the healthiest dining options available on campus, Champion’s Choice shouldn’t be restricted to non-athletes. It’s unfair and should be reopened to all students with meal plans.

USF Dining Marketing Director Jessica Cicalese told The Oracle in an email Sept. 22 this decision was made to better cater to the “predominant population” of athletes who use the dining hall, allowing the menu and schedule to fit their needs. However, this move has “cash grab” written all over it.

Non-athlete students now must pay $80 in addition to their meal plan to gain access to Champion’s Choice. 

There are meal plans available to all on- and off-campus students, ranging from $600 to $2,120, according to USF’s fall 2021 Meal Plan List. While they’re already expensive, these prices have also been gouged by USF Dining. Just this fall, the Open Access and Any 15 plans went up $70 and the Bull Block 175 increased $35.

After increasing prices, it’s unclear as to why USF Dining felt the need to charge non-athletes extra to use one of the dining halls.

If you’re not an athlete and have decided to get the upgrade, you’d most likely want to make the most of your money. Champion’s Choice, however, has already changed operating hours to fit athletes’ needs. 

Students now have from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on weekdays — as opposed to the 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. hours at the other dining halls — to get the meals they’ve paid an extra $80 for. 

Having a student pay extra for access to a dining hall is already absurd enough, but more ridiculous is giving them 12.5 hours total per week to use the upgrade. 

Providing healthy eating options around campus is imperative, as highlighted in a 2019 study by Science Direct. The study, with 1,954 participants across six higher education institutions, found food availability, accessibility and prices were large factors in students’ unhealthy food intake.

This study shows the importance of making healthy options accessible on campus, and restricting access to Champion’s Choice is doing the exact opposite of that. 

Cicalese admitted the decision to restrict the dining hall to athletes came in part to provide them with more nutritious options than other dining halls. 

“The decision behind the transition is largely due to the changing culture in collegiate athletics and greater appreciation for the impact nutrition plays in performance and recovery from training and competition,” she said.

But because a student isn’t enrolled in an official USF sports team doesn’t mean they don’t deserve healthy food options. 

USF Dining should stop being greedy and open the dining hall back up to students with meal plans.