Food un-incorporated

Expired UDS FlexDine would make a difference to someone.

by Hemang Sharma


“Vietnam Veteran. Need money to eat, haven’t eaten in a while,” reads the sign that a homeless man held outside Sanford Hall.

As the light turned red, I waved at him to come closer and handed him my 7-layer burrito from Taco Bell before I sped off.

I got to Comstock Hall and ate at the University Dining Service location with my friend, who was kind enough to cash in a guest pass for me. I couldn’t help but think about the man who had done the ultimate sacrifice for his fellow humans, fought in a pointless war and now he doesn’t even have enough to feed himself. I saw how happy he was at that cheap burrito I had given him. That one burrito was his meal, and I had about four different items spread out on the table.

One part of UDS meal plans is an often mandatory FlexDine component, which, through your UCard, can pay for food at most University of Minnesota restaurants. FlexDine usually comes with a $50-100 base amount, and can be bought in increments of $25 — this can lead to a large amount of prepaid food money in the hands of students.

As reported in the Minnesota Daily in November 2012, the FlexDine dollars that UDS subscribers don’t use revert back to the University. UDS is making $20,000 annually off unused FlexDine

I had a meal plan freshman year, and it came with FlexDine. After a long semester of midterms and finals, I rarely remembered to use my FlexDine on campus. I’ve since graduated from the University of Minnesota, and my FlexDine dollars have reverted back to the University. I would, however, like to see that money go to a better cause.

Leslie Bowman, executive director of contract administration, said that expired FlexDine dollars go toward the administration budget.

Yet, it seems as though the University is expecting, and perhaps justifying, some students not using their FlexDine. I believe the UDS should behave as if  the expired FlexDine is, ultimately, extraneous funds. FlexDine was used for funding the automation of changing meal plans. Inefficiencies like this should be funded by internal revenue, not the unused funds of students.

UDS has a great program  in which it shares unused food with local nonprofits, such as Food Donation Connection  and hungry Minnesotans. Why not, I ask UDS, go further with this program, and pledge unused FlexDine funds to Minnesota’s hungry population?

Hennepin and Ramsey counties have the highest number of food inefficiencies in the state. The nonprofit, Hunger Free MN, estimates about 600,000 people in Minnesota are going hungry. One in 10 Minnesotans doesn’t know where their next meal will come from. More than 130,000 veterans nationwide are homeless and hungry on any given night .

While I want to make clear that UDS has a wonderful program to feed hungry people in our community, I want to challenge it to go one step further. FlexDine dollars were bought to feed University students, and if we don’t use them, this money should still feed our community.