Children up to 6 years old can now eat at Top of Lenoir and Rams Head dining halls for a reduced rate. The new program aims to help faculty and students with children. Meal plan holders can pay $5 for a child to eat at the dining halls.
“It actually came to our attention when a meal plan holder who has a child inquired about it,” said Brandon Thomas, a spokesman for Carolina Dining Services. “And before this year there was never anything in place to offer discounts to children.”
Meal plan holders can pay for the reduced meal with Dining Flex, cash, credit or debit cards. The program began in October.
“We thought that it was something that we could be able provide on campus. It’s something that we know kids don’t eat a whole lot. It wasn’t cost prohibitive,” Thomas said. “The main reason for it is to provide a benefit to our students.”
Although the program is aimed at meal plan holders, Thomas said if faculty and staff bring a child to participating dining halls, that child will be able eat at the reduced rate.
Charles Streeter, chairman of the Employee Forum, said even though faculty and staff do not traditionally have meal plans, he thinks this program offers added advantages for staff to eat on campus.
“I think that would be great. That would probably encourage someone who got their child out of school for the day or just happened to be on campus that would encourage them to definitely use the dining halls more,” he said.
Clare Counihan, program coordinator for faculty and staff at Carolina Women’s Center, said it’s great the University is trying to support and encourage faculty and students who have their families on campus. She said students with children face a number of challenges.
“Currently, there is no explicit policy or procedure for accommodating undergraduates with children, whether during pregnancy or after,” she said in an email. “Students have to work with each faculty member individually to figure out things like deadline extensions or absences if child care falls through.”
Counihan said she thinks Carolina Dining Services could expand the program.
“It would be great if Dining Services could de-link the reduced kids’ price from the meal plan and made it available to cash customers. That way, students or employees without a meal plan could take advantage of the deal,” she said. “Alternately, in Lenoir Hall for example, Dining Services could have a few (healthy) ‘kid-size’ options with a kid-sized price.”
Thomas said they had not thought of this program before, because there was not a huge demand. Although the program is new, he said, it hasn’t faced any major challenges.
“Students that have used it so far have been appreciative of it.”