“Flexi-less” students, like sophomore Adriana Sblendorio, have gone to great lengths to grab a snack between classes.
Sblendorio lives off campus and does not have Flexi — USF’s meal plan required for most students living on campus. During the school day, she does not have time to travel back to her place and eat.
Though students like Sblendorio are able to purchase food on campus with real money, for a variety of reasons, like cost, many students try to avoid it. Instead, some resort to the use of “Flexi Fairies,” or students with the meal plan who cover the cost of Flexi-less students’ meals or snacks. Because students with the meal plan must forfeit any unused Flexi money at the end of the year, the “fairies” let other students use their Flexi.
Sophomore Zoe Mena has classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for the majority of the day. She said she will try to eat before her classes and does not eat until after her classes end in the late afternoon. “The cafeteria prices are too high,” Mena said in a text. “There are no snacks in the undercaf that are filling or healthy.”
Sblendorio agrees. “If the food was better quality, then I would understand the price a little more.”
To avoid the cost, Mena sometimes asks her friends who live on campus to buy her a bagel or fruit to save her from having to make the trip all the way back to her apartment.
Freshman Elinor Robbins is often a Flexi Fairy for sisters in her sorority. She said she has plenty of Flexi to spare because she is allergic to soy and has celiac disease, so she cannot eat much of the food served in the caf.
“I figure that if I have Flexi to spare, there is no reason that I should not help out other students with these issues,” Robbins said.
Bon Appétit determines the prices of food in the caf based on the cost of “high-quality ingredients” and the “from-scratch approach,” according to Bon Appétit Resident District Manager Micah Cavolo.
“We believe our menu prices are fair given the value of the ingredients and labor they represent,” Cavolo said.
Garrett O’Doherty, the top USF administrator in charge of the caf, said that the cost of food also comes from the quality.
“Recently I have toured other universities and have discovered that our pricing is quite similar,” O’Doherty said. “But, the options we present on types of food are much greater and healthier than most.”
As for Flexi Fairies, O’Doherty said that the existence of this practice is “unfortunate.” Cavolo said that Bon Appétit is open to working with the University and students to help combat the need for someone helping another pay for meals.
O’Doherty suggested USF’s food pantry, which is located on the lower level of Gleeson Library, as an option for students without Flexi who are food insecure.
At least once a week, sophomore Caroline Anderson, will ask for a Flexi Fairy on her sorority’s Facebook group page. “As much as I could afford the food, I do not want to spend my money on food that is average to below-average [quality] for how much it costs.”