Panda Express is certainly delicious, but when dinner options are limited and you’re down to Blue Bucks to pay for meals, orange chicken gets old quickly — and goes straight to your hips. Currently, students can only use the Blue Bucks that come with meal plans at on-campus establishments like U-go’s and vendors in the Michigan Unions. But recently, the LSA Student Goverment has started to work to expand the use of Blue Bucks to off-campus eateries. The idea is to improve students’ options and increase local restaurants’ business. LSA-SG should continue to work with the University and approach local businesses to expand the Blue Bucks program.

According to a Dec. 6 Daily article, a recent poll taken by LSA-SG showed that 66 percent of student respondents said that they would eat at an off-campus restaurant at least one more time each week if they could use Blue Bucks. Currently, only University-affiliated eateries — like restaurants in the basements of the Michigan League and Union, U-go’s and residence hall convenience stores like South Quad’s Chow Town — accept Blue Bucks. Members of LSA-SG got the idea to expand the Blue Bucks program after visiting other universities with similar programs. Ohio State University and Cleveland State University have food payment options like Blue Bucks, but students there are allowed to use them as dollars in local restaurants. LSA-SG President Steven Benson told the Daily that he feels confident moving forward with the change because so many students provided positive feedback. He hopes to organize meetings with officials from University Housing to discuss the issue further.

This is a somewhat ambitious task for LSA-SG — but the progress seen so far is encouraging, and leaders of the project seem to have a clear plan. When LSA-SG takes on ventures like this, it’s directly responding to students’ wants and needs, which is exactly what a student government should do.

Expanding the Blue Bucks program to off-campus eateries would give students more easy and healthy options. Blue Bucks is money that students and their families have already set aside for food. But right now, students are limited to fast food that is for the most part unhealthy. If more off-campus establishments like Seva, Jerusalem Garden and Sava’s accepted Blue Bucks, students could use their money for a healthier option than a Wendy’s Baconator.

And local eateries would benefit, too. Businesses that currently participate in the program (like the Wendy’s and Subway in the Union) are required to return 3.5 percent of all sales to University dining. But while this rate may seem high, the benefits the businesses would receive from increased sales outweigh the costs. Restaurants that accept Blue Bucks would see increased revenue and student patronage. They would simultaneously establish a solid client base. Students would return to their favorite eateries after they no longer use Blue Bucks.

Students would have more options and businesses could see an increase in sales if Blue Bucks were good for more than Mrs. Fields cookies. LSA-SG should continue its efforts to better Blue Bucks and local businesses should sign on to the program.

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