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Matt McConville (College '07) waits for a sandwhich at the 1920 Commons

Don’t worry if dining hall food tastes stale to you — a series of changes are already coming to spice up Penn Dining’s meal plans for the fall 2015 semester.

The most immediate changes have been made to meal swipes. “We’ve heard from students and even though we created a range of very flexible plans ... a lot of students tend to have meal swipes left over at the end of the semester,” Director of Penn Dining Pam Lampitt said.

Two mechanisms have already been put in place this semester to make use of spare meal swipes, aside from giving everyone behind you in Commons a free meal.

One change to meal swipes is Penn Dining’s new Meal Swipe Conversion Policy. Any student who signs up for a dining plan by April 30 for the 2015-16 academic year may convert 10 to 50 meal swipes into Dining Dollars to use for the rest of the spring semester.

The value of each converted meal swipe is equivalent to $4.75. When purchasing a dining plan or adding swipes to your account, each meal swipe is worth roughly between $11 to $14. Students who sign up by April 30 will be locked into the current 2014-15 dining plan prices before they increase next academic year.

“We tried to look very hard at the meal swipe itself and converting it into Dining Dollars for the student,” Lampitt said. “We’ve seen a significant rise in the number of students who have signed up for a meal plan already compared to last year.” The Meal Swipe Conversion Policy will come into full effect for the 2015-16 academic year. Dining dollars will roll over between the fall and spring semesters.

The second mechanism is the recently implemented Swipe Out Hunger campaign, which allows students to give up two meal swipes per event to donate food to the local nonprofit Philabudance. The nonprofit provides assistance to approximately 75,000 people a week.

“Swipe Out Hunger was a pilot program pitched by two wonderful students” — College sophomores Liza Lansing and Jessica Abrams” — “and the first event was wildly successful,” Lampitt said. The next Swipe Out Hunger event is Tuesday, April 28.

A potential program proposed by Penn students is TableTalk — a program where students who would otherwise eat separately would sit together and discuss a variety of topics, over their meal. TableTalk was first implemented at Emory University in the fall of last year. “We still have a lot of students who come to us with great ideas of what they would like to see in dining,” Lampitt said.

Penn Dining has also started working with Penn Environment Group and Penn Hospitality Services to improve fresh water filling stations around campus.

“I think that’s where we are heading,” Business Services Communications Director Barbara Lea-Kruger said. “If students come to us with thoughtful ideas, we are willing to work with them, and we want to expand our community activities.”

“Dining is really about building community,” Lampitt said. “We are encouraging a lot more events like Dining Days to help build a community around dining and to give students an outlet for stress.” Dining Days lasted from March 16 to 20 this year and included events like a dash for food — where students filled boxes of groceries in a short amount of time and would pay for them at a discount — at the Gourmet Grocer and Quizzo at Kings Court English College House.

Penn Dining is also continuing to help improve the PennMobile app by adding nutritional information to the Dining section of the app in the near future.

“We are putting a lot of resources into the new dining facility for the New College House and also the one for Hill once Hill gets renovated,” Lea-Kruger said. “A lot of our effort is going into planning the future ahead of just next fall.”

“We’re spending a lot of time designed a really fantastic dining facility for Hill House to accommodate the diverse student population that will be there,” Lampitt said.

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