Stolen orders: An exploration of the issue of meal swipe stealing at CWRU

Grace Johnson, News Editor

Students on the meal plan at Case Western Reserve University know that swipes at certain campus locations are a necessity here. For example, meal swipes at The Jolly Scholar and The Den by Denny’s are vital for when students must attain meals after regular dining hall hours. 

The convenience associated with using the order-ahead system on the GrubHub app for these locations is notable, as students can just submit an order and pick it up when it’s ready without having to wait in physical lines. This was especially useful when COVID-19 was at its peak. However, once these meals are ready, they are set out in the open to be picked up by the person who ordered them. While this makes it quick and easy for the students and employees of these restaurants, it has also made it incredibly easy for those not ordering from a meal plan to steal meals.

Some students take advantage of the convenience provided by the GrubHub meal swipe system and have taken to stealing other students’ meals from these locations. Those who actually ordered meals are then left waiting for an inordinate amount of time, wasting both their time and the time of those preparing the food. Jolly Scholar server Ellianna Wade stated, “It’s really frustrating seeing customers wait an unacceptable amount of time for their food because with all of the orders, it takes a while to notice it’s stolen.”

I have seen this happen firsthand, as many of my own meals have been stolen from The Jolly Scholar and The Den over the last few weeks of the semester. At one point I actually watched a student steal a meal from The Jolly Scholar—they scurried in and took it, giggling, then scurried out quickly before they could be caught.

Many members of the CWRU community have noticed that stealing meals has become common. According to Wade, these frustrations spill onto the employees as well: “Most of the time, [students] don’t have the time to wait because they’re grabbing a quick bite between classes or meetings, so making them wait even longer is simply unfair just because of someone else’s selfishness.”

Many times it seems like students simply take others’ orders out of convenience, so they don’t have to pay for their own meal. There is an argument to be made that food costs too much at CWRU and perhaps it’s a matter of need for some students. However, even if that were the issue at hand, there are several other resources for CWRU students to use rather than resorting to thievery. The Swipe Out Hunger program, sponsored by our Undergraduate Student Government, allows students to donate meal swipes from their own meal plan to help other students who can’t afford it. According to the CWRU Food Resources website, “Students who are struggling with food security or consistently accessing nutritious foods may request up to three meal swipes per semester that can be used at Leutner Commons or Fribley Commons.”

In addition to Swipe Out Hunger, a number of other organizations exist to help combat food insecurity, including the Physical Resource Center, the Free Little Food Pantry and the Lunch Box Initiative, among others. These organizations exist so that students do not have to resort to stealing other students’ food. Stealing meals costs other students money from their own meal plans, but with these resources, theoretically no money needs to be wasted.

Students should not have to steal to eat—if you or someone you know is dealing with food insecurity, know that these resources exist to help. On the other hand, students stealing food simply for sport should not be tolerated, otherwise we may lose the conveniences we so value.