(Daily Emerald)

Financial planning can be a daunting task for young adults. Working food into a budget is essential. The Waddle Meal Plan is a new off-campus student meal plan that aims to help students budget, while connecting them to local restaurants. Waddle will also provide exclusive discounts and promotional QR codes. This is the first off-campus meal plan launched by UO juniors and Co-Founders Alden Schatz, Ethan Rife and Mia Lopez.

Learning to budget is a nonlinear process that can be particularly hard in a college town. Ignorance is bliss. My freshman and sophomore year at the University of Oregon, I lived in sweet, ignorant bliss because my parents paid for my dorm meal plan, as well as my sorority house meal plan. This year, food is factored into my own budget instead of my parents’. I am extremely privileged to not have stressed about feeding myself until I was 20 years old. It is comforting to know where and what your next meal will be. Since having to rely on myself for food I find myself using rewards at Safeway, looking for deals at restaurants and bars and taking advantage of student discounts. Saving even just a dollar on a couple of items adds up. Having extra money in the food budget to nourish yourself happens over time by saving on food.

Having food that is meaningful, while still cost effective, is crucial in staying sane. Food is intimate. The action and culture around food is intimate. A struggle meal is a concept everyone can relate to. I still often eat struggle meals and strategize my groceries to be sustainable for long periods of time. However, food is inherently social, psychological and intimate. Strictly eating struggle meals is not healthy and, quite frankly, not fun. Eating a really good meal or going out to eat with a friend or significant other is important for self care.

Couponing, discounts and promotions can help save tons of money while still enjoying your favorite foods. The University of Oregon doesn’t have an off-campus meal plan that offers support to students. However, Waddle –– coming in fall of 2021 –– is the closest option to an off-campus meal promotion.

 Creating a more inclusive and valuable campus is of utmost importance to the young founders of Waddle. Waddle aims to connect students living in Eugene with local restaurants and locations to provide discounts and faster checkout. I am a sucker for two things: Apple Pay and rewards programs. From my perspective, that is exactly what Waddle is. Inspired by helping local restaurants and merchants during the hardships of the pandemic, Schatz, Lopez and Rife started working on what would become Waddle.

“We dreamed of leaving the university better than we found it,” Lopez said. “We wanted to create something bigger than ourselves.”When asked about the hope for users of the meal plan, Schatz said, “We hope that when a student thinks about where to go get food, they pull out the Waddle app. We also hope that students enjoy using it as much as parents enjoy uploading to it.”When I heard this, I got the perfect idea. When Waddle makes its debut, I am going to download the app on my parents phone –– then hope they miss me enough to drop a couple bucks into the app as a little gift toward eating.

Starting to save money can be as easy as saving a couple bucks a week. By uploading money manually and having promotions, students can learn how eating outside of home affects a budget.

Waddle provides the opportunity for businesses around Eugene to connect students and offer exclusive discounts. Businesses are willing to give college students a discount because we are all broke! Restaurants want the business from students, and not taking advantage of these opportunities subsequently means missing out on extra money. As if saving money was not good enough, signing up for Waddle enters you into a raffle –– and the reward is $100 credit on Waddle upon the app’s grand opening. Personally, I have never won a raffle. But, I have a feeling –– and if that feeling is right –– I will soon be spending $100 at Cheba Hut through the app.

If you or anyone you know is dealing with food insecurity, The University of Oregon has many assistance programs such as Leftover Textover, Produce Drops, Ducks Feeding Ducks, Hearth and Table and the Student Food Pantry. As always, the Duck Nest and Dean of Students can also answer any questions regarding challenges facing those experiencing food insecurity.