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Food theft a campus norm

By Megan Zahneis, The Miami Student

It's just after 6 p.m. on a Saturday evening. As the sun sets outside Western Dining Commons, two female students exit the building.

Armed with a bulging plastic bag in each hand, the pair head off carrying at least a full meal with them.

The question begs to be answered: are they thieves? Or are they merely being economical, taking "all-you-can-eat" to its logical extreme?

Whether it's taking a piece of fruit and a drink to-go, or snagging fixings for a second dinner, "dining hall theft" takes place every day at all-you-can-eat facilities like Western and Harris Dining Halls.

Some enjoy making a competition out of how much food they can smuggle out of their local dining hall. Others feel they're entitled to take what they want, given that they've paid dining hall fees.

First-year Bianca Oviedo counts herself in the latter.

"The way I see it, we're paying for the food and the food is technically all-you-can-eat while you're in there, so I don't see a problem if you want to take something home to eat later in the day," Oviedo said after eating at Western, adding that moderation is key. "Be reasonable. Don't bring in five bags or Tupperware cases and bring food home to stock up for the week."

First-year Ellie Fiskio justified the food smuggling, too.

"You're still paying for it, whether or not you eat it now," Fiskio said.

Associate Vice President for Auxiliaries Kim Kinsel said that the university doesn't consider food theft to be a major issue, though it is a violation of the Student Code of Conduct.

Kinsel noted that "carry-out" isn't permitted in buffet locations on campus. Instead, students should use dedicated facilities, like the markets located inside several dining halls, for carry-out or "grab-and-go" options.

"If we observe students taking items without proper payment or in violation of our buffet … we do stop the student and review the policy with them," Kinsel said. "Many students are not aware of the policy in the buffet locations, so we inform them of the policy and ask them to consume their meal inside the location."

Dispelling a popular campus rumor, Kinsel added that there is no such thing as a "stolen food fee" built into student dining fees.

"We have been asked about a 'competition' [between students to steal the most food] and a 'fee' before, and we just don't know where this rumor comes from," Kinsel said.

And as for those two would-be perpetrators at Western Dining Commons? According to Kinsel, they were in the wrong.

Yet they walked out of the dining commons free and clear.