While most would think it to be glamorous, the daily life of a Division I student athlete is a grind. Balancing practices, schoolwork, working out and a social life all at the same time takes an extreme level of dedication and effort. One must live and breathe the sport that they take part in, as the grueling schedule could easily conquer the weak-minded and weak-willed. Student athletes simply have a lot on their plates at all times; it would only be fair to allow them to have as much on their plates as they desire in the most literal sense of the phrase. Student athletes at Fairfield University should be compensated for their hard work and dedication through the awarding of an unlimited meal plan.

Why should a student athlete receive this kind of favorable treatment over a regular student at Fairfield University? The answer, in my opinion, lies in the difference between their schedules. Sure, many students at any university may have a difficult schedule every day, whether due to class schedules, internships, campus jobs or voluntary clubs and activities. Missing from this daily routine, however, is the inclusion of mandatory practices, meetings and team workouts that most, if not all, Division I sports require their athletes to attend. It is crucial that these athletes be given the ability to eat whenever possible, as free time can often be hard to come by. 

I spoke to several student athletes from various sports programs at Fairfield University. One athlete I spoke to was Mia Melao ’22, a runner on the women’s cross country team. 

When asked about the convenience of an unlimited meal plan, Mia had this to say:

“We (women’s xc) are super busy and have weird practice times, so having an unlimited meal plan would help a lot. Even if you don’t have time to go to the Tully, having the extra dining dollars would be helpful to use in the Stag since it is easy on-the-go food.”

I also spoke to Jazmine Carter ’22, a member of the women’s basketball program here. Carter seemed to share feelings similar to Melao about the convenience of an unlimited meal plan for the student athlete.

“I have the unlimited swipes and I am able to go and grab a quick bite to eat in between classes/practice without having to worry about how many swipes I have left for the semester,” Carter said. 

Student athletes have a lot of commitments and a lot of time-consuming tasks that must be fulfilled daily. This can be extremely stressful at times, depending upon the program in question. The ability to get some food whenever necessary should not be an added concern of these athletes, who tax their bodies every day during practices and workouts. The amount of energy required to do all the regular tasks of a student while also committing to the tasks of an athlete is quite substantial. 

I asked Thomas Willemese ’22, a member of Fairfield’s swimming and diving team, about the importance of sustenance when it comes to student athletes and their meal plan. 

He said, “a lot of times we swim twice a day or do some sort of workout at two different times of the day, so it is crucial to be able to get some food whether it is before or after such workouts.” 

The grind of the student athlete is quite taxing and expends a lot of time and energy. While several of the athletes that I spoke to did already have unlimited meal plans, Melao had the standard 14-swipe plan. While she personally felt that the plan was sufficient enough for her, she did believe that all athletes should have the option to make their plan an unlimited one.

“We work our bodies hard to perform at our best, so finding ways/times to eat three meals a day shouldn’t be an extra struggle, and it should be encouraged especially in lean sports,” Melao remarked. 

Carter, who already had unlimited meal swipes, agreed with that sentiment, believing that student athletes should have the ability to secure an unlimited meal plan if they desire. 

“I believe all student athletes should have the unlimited plan, so that it is more convenient for them with their busy schedules,” she said.

Willemese had a slightly different approach to the same question, considering that maybe it should just be left up to the athlete on what they decide is the best plan for them. 

“I think it just comes down to someone’s preferences and practice schedule. Maybe athletes could have the option to have an unlimited meal plan automatically?” 

It became clear to me through my interactions with these athletes that all programs would benefit greatly from the existence of an unlimited swipes plan for all student athletes at Fairfield University. The convenience of having the ability to go get food at any time, without the added stress of managing swipes, would be extremely beneficial to the morale of athletes in every program, who already have plenty to be worried about. Athletes work hard enough to balance exceeding in their sport with sufficient schoolwork and maintaining a social life. The least that can be done is to give them the assurance that their meals are taken care of.

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