Ask the Observer: Did 1844 Cafe change how it accepts flex points?
Cathy Doherty | Friday, March 3, 2023
At the end of last semester, Saint Mary’s campus leaders announced changes to students’ meal plans: Meal swipes can no longer be used for snack items in the Grab-N-Go, and students will have the opportunity to buy additional flex points.
On Dec. 13, Gloria Jenkins, dean of students, sent an email to all Saint Mary’s students regarding meal plan changes that would be occurring starting in the spring semester. The email highlighted changes being made to flex points and the Grab-N-Go program.
Prior to this semester, students were unable to add more flex points to their account if they ran out. Jenkins announced in her email that for one week in the semester, students will have the opportunity to purchase more flex points. The email did not specify when that week would be.
“We will announce a one-time, week-long window for Flex Point additions up to $400, sold in increments of $50,” Jenkins explained in the email. “The reason for providing an opportunity to add additional flex points and starting it this semester was due to students’ requests.”
Jenkins shared that the meal plan options will remain the same in the years to come, and students will continue to have the option to buy additional flex points mid-semester.
Dan Patterson, assistant director of Campus Dining, explained that offering more flex points upfront, as Notre Dame does, would mean charging more upfront as well.
The 1844 Cafe also adjusted the Grab-N-Go point system.
“Beginning in January 2023, Grab ‘n Go meals will be provided in the form of sandwiches, salads and fruit,” Jenkins wrote. “Candies, packaged drinks, and packaged snacks will once again be purchased using Flex Points or credit card payments, no longer in exchange for a meal swipe.”
Patterson expanded on, explaining how Saint Mary’s brought Grab-N-Go over to their campus after witnessing the program in place at Notre Dame. The addition took place during the COVID pandemic, and it was designed to allow students to better utilize their meal plan when other options were limited.
“We are now past the COVID period limitations,” Patterson said. “It was decided that the snack items should probably be eliminated at this point, back to its original intent as a meal substitute,” Patterson said. This decision was made with SMC officials and was meant to resemble Notre Dame’s Grab-N-Go, she added.
When asked why this change occurred in the middle of an academic year rather than the start of a new one, Patterson responded, “At this point, we [SMC officials and ND Campus Dining] felt [COVID] restrictions had lessened enough for everything to go back to the original intent of the concept. So it’s not really limited or scaling back — It’s where it was intended to be.”
Along with the recent changes to flex points and the Grab-N-Go program, Patterson detailed further updates within the cafe.
“You have probably noticed that we have added a few more items,” she said. “We had some students point out some very good items that we inadvertently missed.”
Some of these additions include Pillsbury Soft Baked cookies, applesauce and fruit roll ups.
“We also had a freezer in Grab-N-Go that had stopped working, and it took about six to eight weeks to get it replaced.” Patterson continued, “We now have a new freezer in which a few more items were added in that location also.”
Most of the additions can only be purchased with a credit card or with flex points. Sandwiches, salads and fruit remain the only items eligible for the price of a meal swipe.