Tired of eating Allison chicken and rice? Longing for a Patty Squared cheeseburger? Luckily, Northwestern students are armed with a stash of dining dollars to satisfy all their food-related cravings. First–year and second–year students are assigned to Northwestern’s Open Access Meal Plan, which grants them 125 dining dollars each quarter. Whether it's for a daily cup of Norbucks coffee, a late-night Fran’s milkshake or a smoothie from The Protein Bar, dining dollars provide Northwestern students with an extra degree of dining flexibility. Run out of laundry detergent or tissues? Dining dollars cover toiletries at campus stores as well! Yet, the longevity of these dollars is another story. North by Northwestern surveyed 51 first– and second–year Northwestern students on their fall dining dollar usage.


Jacob Jarding, Weinberg second–year

Spends the most at: Dunkin’ Donuts

“Last year, I barely used my dining dollars. At the end of the year, I had almost $200 I needed to spend in just a few weeks because I would spend so much time inside. Whereas this year, I find myself in positions where I need it more often.”

Adam Leif, Weinberg second–year

Spends the most at: Viet Nom Nom

“If you’re at $20 at this point in the quarter, you’re just making yourself sad. Because then you’re going to have to spend real- people money if you want to buy non-meal exchange stuff.”

*surveyed at the end of week three

While some students are down to 20 dining dollars by the end of week three, dining dollar hoarders may find themselves asking in June: what can I do with all of this leftover cash?

Weinberg third-year Anika Nerella has an answer.

“I had the idea to organize a food drive on campus for a long time,” Nerella says. “Before coming to college, that was something I always wanted to do and last year seemed like a very good time, especially with me and a lot of my fellow students realizing, ‘Hey, I have so many dining dollars left, and I have nothing to do with them at the end of the year.’”

Thus, the dining dollar drive was born. Working with Campus Kitchen, a campus group that collects, packages and redistributes dining hall leftovers, Nerella repurposed students’ dining dollars to feed low-income Evanston residents. Over three days, the group collected nearly 14 boxes of non-perishable goods and over 1,000 unique food items. The collected food goes to Soup at Six, an Evanston soup kitchen that operates out of the Hemenway United Methodist Church.

This year, Nerella is reprising her role as the dining dollar drive organizer. She hopes to expand to more locations, including the C-stores in Foster- Walker Complex and Lisa’s, and collect over a longer period of time.

“I would hear a lot about students making change and doing things on campus, and I always itched to do something myself,” Nerella says. “At the end of collecting all this food, I really felt like I had contributed to something in the community for the first time and had a tangible impact.”

Top Spots to Spend:

Other: The Protein Bar, Tech Express, Kresge Cafe, Cafe Coralie, Other Norris Restaurants

Top Coffee Spots to Spend: