Students from across the country are trickling into Charlottesville for the start of classes. For some, it's the beginning of a four year journey. For others, it's returning to the school and town they've already learned to love. The one part of heading back to school at UVA that no one looks forward to is eating at the dining hall.

UVA's meal plans are almost as notoriously expensive as the dining halls are infamous for serving disappointing food. Since 2015, however, a private alternative to UVA meal plans has taken over the scene. 

Seth and Josh, two UVA alumni, recognized that meal plans were getting more expensive even as the food quality declined. They set out to develop an off-campus alternative. That's when Elevate Meal Plan was born. 

Over the past few years, Elevate Meal Plan has been growing fast, not only at UVA, but also at several other campuses across the country. Here's what's so great about choosing Elevate Meal Plan, the private alternative to UVA's dining halls and plus dollars.

1. Eat at all of your favorite restaurants.

Pictured: Chicken caesar wrap from Trinity

One of the saddest things about being a broke student in Charlottesville is having to miss out on the restaurant scene. With Elevate, you don't have to. There are currently 21 local restaurants where you can use your meals. From Juice Laundry to Trinity to Vu Noodles and everything in between, Elevate is sure to have a meal combo for you.

2. Preorder meals to skip the lines.

Pictured: Specialty slice combo from Christian's Pizza

Lunch can be extremely rushed in between classes, group work, and studying. Instead of settling for the dining hall or skipping it altogether, you can order ahead using the Elevate web app. Your meal will be waiting for you when you arrive, just be prepared for lots of jealous looks from everyone still waiting in line. 

3. Meals automatically roll over to the next semester.

Pictured: Wings and bibimbap from DOMA Korean Kitchen

From your first day of classes to the day you graduate, you'll never lose your meals on Elevate. What I can't guarantee, however, is that you'll have any leftover meals hanging around. Luckily, you can also reload your plan with more meals at any time of the year. 

4. Use your swipes any day of the week, any time the restaurant is open.

Pictured: Five easy pieces signature sandwich from Little John's

UVA's dining halls and plus dollar locations have strange hours, often leaving students extremely hungry when they need a meal the most. With Elevate, each restaurant has unique hours so you can use your meals whenever they are open. Some locations are open nearly 24/7.

5. You pay using your phone, no card or cash required.

Pictured: Signature bowls from Roots Natural Kitchen

Elevate has an extremely easy to use online web app that allows students to order meals ahead of time, pay for meals in restaurants, and add meals. If you need to add extra notes or customizations to your order, you can do that as well. All you need to do carry is your phone. 

6. Save money!

Pictured: Pick two combo from Revolutionary Soup

Not only is Elevate Meal Plan cheaper per meal than a UVA dining plan, but your meals will also be up to $2 off retail price each. By partnering directly with restaurants, Elevate can provide meals at 10-20 percent off the a la carte price that the general public pays. 

If you're not tuning in from the Charlottesville area, don't fret. Elevate Meal Plan is rescuing students from dining halls across the country. As the Fall 2018 semester begins, students at UVA, TCC, Florida State, University of Michigan, St. Clair, and Cornell are all choosing Elevate. 

#SpoonTip: If you're ready to escape the dining halls, use this link for one free meal when you sign up for Elevate.