Eco2Go boxes should be free

Emily Harrison, Columnist

Almost every day since I’ve been at UT, I’ve taken my lunch to-go for free. When I have a busy schedule, it’s convenient to take my lunch back to my dorm and eat while I’m studying. 

Now that UT has reimplemented the Eco2Go box program, reusable to-go boxes cost $7.50 and a meal swipe with each use, which forces me to choose between convenience and money. This should not be a choice students should have to make. 

For the past year, disposable to-go boxes have been available and free to use due to COVID-19. Now, the University is trying to go back to usual campus procedures and implement the cost of taking food to-go again, but because COVID-19 is still an issue, reusable Eco2Go boxes should continue to be free for all students to use.

Radio-television-film freshman Lou Bertram described why this cost is detrimental.

“The charge of $7.50 for every meal eaten to-go is not realistic for a lot of students, on top of what they’re already paying for their housing and dining costs,” Bertram said. “Dining halls are getting more and more crowded, and it’s becoming more of an anxiety-provoking concern to eat, especially for people like myself who have underlying health concerns for whom the risk of COVID-19 is higher.”

Students should not have to risk their health just to eat, nor should they have to feel the anxiety Bertram described. Eating in safe conditions should be a right, not a privilege. Eco2Go boxes shouldn’t only be available for people who can pay for it.

Mynor Rivera, director of dining operations, discussed how the $7.50 is used to the students’ benefit.

“We are doing this to make sure our food costs (and) the labor costs align,” Rivera said.  “We have a sushi (night on) Oct. 26, and we have a steak night (coming up). (The $7.50) can help us to pay for the sushi (and steak). We don’t keep the $7.50, we make sure the students (are) getting back something.”

However, Rivera didn’t know how much of students’ housing and dining fees goes into dining and couldn’t provide statistics about how students’ money is used. He also couldn’t explain why UT needs supplemental money from the Eco2Go boxes to pay for food.

Bertram reached out to UHD through email for an explanation for the $7.50 cost of Eco2Go boxes and was frustrated with their response. 

“So as I understand, the cost is to help address the inflated labor, food and service costs that have constrained (UHD’s) ability to offer the broad array of food (they) have planned,” Bertram said. “It seems like the students are bearing the brunt of some issue with their finances. We pay so much for housing and dining costs, and I know that this University has an enormous endowment, so it just doesn’t seem fair for us to have to struggle to cover that for them.”

An over $12,000 housing and dining payment is more than enough, and we shouldn’t be expected to pay out of pocket or waste our $300 in dine-in dollars on the same food we could get with our meal plan just so we can take it to-go.

UHD wants to give us premium nights, as Rivera described, but the department wants us to pay extra so they can afford it. We weren’t even asked if this is what we wanted. If UHD wants to provide us with premium food, they should find a way to afford it without creating extraneous fees and forcing students to bear the additional cost.

Harrison is a journalism freshman from Dallas, Texas.