Meal plans get mixed reaction

Whitney Ingersoll

A meal plan used to be an option for concerned parents who wanted to make sure their kids weren’t starving their first time away from home.

But some freshmen are questioning the success and purpose of the new program.

Last fall, the Board of Regents passed a resolution requiring all freshmen who live on campus to have a minimum 10-meal plan. This is the first semester for the new program.

Auxiliary Services Director Rob Chrisler said the regents passed the freshmen meal plan requirement because of dorm safety concerns, economics and to help ease students’ transition into college.

Studies have shown that freshmen with meal plans are able to make better decisions after they return to school their sophomore year, Chrisler said.

And since the program has started, the cost of meal plans has risen 3 percent.

Chrisler said the increase has mostly been because of inflation. There is a 4 percent limit on how much Aramark can increase its prices every year.

The meal plan prices range from $1,035, 19 meals with $100 meal plan dollars, to $729, 10 meals without meal plan dollars.

The reviews of the new requirement are mixed though. Some favor the program’s security – never going hungry – but others question the cost factor.

“You can eat at DUC and other places, and it saves you money,” Cecilia freshman Matt Allen said. “You just swipe your card, so you don’t have to get out cash.”

Florence freshman Scott Koch agreed.

“I think it works,” he said. “It makes sure we have good food to eat.”

Elizabethtown senior Phil Campbell said the meal plans are convenient. He said students would pay more to eat off campus over a semester than to buy a meal plan. And though cooking may be a cheaper option, students likely don’t have the time to cook every meal.

“I don’t have a problem with it really, if you consider the total with the number of meals you’re going to get,” Campbell said. “It’s not bad.”

But some freshmen aren’t sold on the plans.

“It’s an inconvenience for people who prefer to prepare their own meals,” Calhoun freshman Emily Hayden said.

Other freshmen said the meal plan is a waste because they don’t use all of the meals every week. Meal that are not used do not rollover to the next week.

“I’m indifferent, because some weeks I use all my meals, and it would be cheaper to use my meal plan instead of buy them,” Cynthiana freshman John Sharp said.

Some say the meal plans are too limited for their cravings.

“It doesn’t cover what they want,” said Angie Ruiz, a cashier at Garrett Food Court.

Chrisler said some of the most popular meals were designated as meal plans.

When a student wants a meal that is not on the plan, they have to pay the difference out of their own pocket or using other funds like Big Red Dollars or Dining Dollars. Sometimes the difference can be several dollars.

A big sirloin burger meal at Grille Works, including french fries and a drink, costs $3.05 with a meal plan during lunch. It costs $6.33 without a meal plan.

In comparison, a McDonald’s quarter pounder value meal is $4.08 and a whopper value meal is $4.40.

Some students are also curious as to why different meal times have different amounts students can spend using their meal plans.

“You get the same food but pay more,” Franklin sophomore Tyann Porche said. “I can understand like at the caf? because you’ll get chicken instead of cereal.”

Chrisler said the food prices fluctuate by meal zone because of factors like menu costs and labor needed to operate. For instance, breakfast prices may be cheaper because fewer people eat breakfast and therefore less employees are needed to operate the areas.

Reach Whitney Ingersoll at [email protected]