Courtesy of UCR Today
Courtesy of UCR Today

UCR Dining Services has reduced their meal perk program for student workers from $10 to $5 in order to save on costs from the old program. According to Dining Executive Director Cheryl Garner, this reduction allows the department to continue hiring and scheduling shifts for the 900 students it has employed in recent years.

In the past, students who were employed by dining services were allowed to have up to $10 worth of food, excluding drinks which were provided for free at many restaurants, as part of their meal perk during breaks, as well as before and after shifts. Under the new policy however, dining students are only allowed to have up to $5 worth of food, which is worth less than many items on campus restaurant menus.

“For every 3-hour shift, it was costing us about $3.30 each time a student were to receive a meal. Multiply that by all of the shifts and students we employ and the costs quickly became astronomical,” Garner explained.

Dining services is the largest employer of students on campus, providing jobs to approximately 4 percent of the student body. Consequently, the costs associated with the old program easily surpassed $25,000 each week student workers came into their shifts.

In addition, Garner pointed out that it was also following the trend many local restaurants in the area have in regards to their meal perks. Local chains such as Carl’s Jr. give only a 50 percent discount to its employees during shifts, and a 20 percent discount at all other times.

Gardner also explained that the rising costs of goods were also severely impacting the dining service budget. In order to provide fresh produce to students at a cheaper cost, Gardner explained that it has partnered with the R’Garden to receive produce. She also mentioned that they are in the process of working with other local businesses to help reduce costs.

Despite these efforts, a few dining service students remained upset about the change. Eunnis Lee, a fifth-year political science major and student manager for dining services stated, “I hate it. I am spending about $15 more per week just to get my meals.”

Another student worker who is a fourth-year and wished to remain anonymous stated, ”First off, just like the many of us, I applied for UCR Dining because of the benefits … As a college student, you are swamped with classes and work and clubs and life. So, it was nice to know that you had a dinner to look forward to when you attended your shift. That way, you are sure you got something to eat throughout the day.”

In regards to the department’s efforts to save on costs, the student stated, “Even with them cutting back our food benefit, they are still tossing untouched food. They prefer to toss the food, than to feed their own employees.”

Lee, however, stated that the department could attempt to use other methods to save on costs. “I think that they should go back to the old plan but use some new regulations …They should charge drinks when ringing up the 10 dollar meal perk. And not give out free coffee to students, I think that might help save a few bucks.”