Meal plan rates to increase 3 percent next fall

Beth Sewell

Because food costs are rising for Western, the university will have to take an extra bite out of student wallets next year.

Meal plan rates will rise 3 percent in fall 2003 to cover increases in distributor costs and labor costs, according to Dining Services director Barry Wells.

The 10-meal-a-week plan, which will be required for incoming freshmen, will go from $729 per semester to $750. But meals will still be cheaper for meal plan holders than for students who pay with cash or Big Red dollars.

Several students, including Ceylon Hollis, a freshman from Clarksville, Tenn., said a 3 percent increase wasn’t enough to drive them away from meal plans.

She’s keeping her 7-meals-per-week plan because it’s convenient.

“I don’t have a car, so it’s easier to go to Topper Cafe,” Hollis said.

But if she could do it differently, she would.

“I don’t think it’s worth it,” Hollis said. “It’s kind of expensive already, and the food is not that great for the price.”

The rise isn’t an issue for Brandenburg freshman Abe Miller because his parents pick up the tab.

He likes having a meal plan because it’s easier.

“You just give them your card, say meal plan, and they just swipe it,” he said.

The hike in meal plan prices next year will follow on the heels of other price increases this year.

Wells said the prices of some items in the university’s food courts increased this semester, namely fountain drinks, which have risen 10 cents in cost. But he wasn’t sure which other items were more expensive.

Students who pay cash on campus have taken notice.

Stearns senior Jacob Hamlin said he pays about $1.50 more per meal than he used to. He is now spending about $50 per week eating on campus – a practice he said is going to have to stop.

“I’m going to have to get food other places because it’s getting to be too much,” Hamlin said. “It’s definitely more than last year.”

Auxiliary Services director Rob Chrisler said any increase in food prices on campus is reported to him. Western does not track price increases of individual food items from year to year, but Chrisler said he does perform comparative analyses of Western’s rates with local competitors.

For example, students paying cash for two Chicken Soft Tacos with a 22 oz. drink at Taco Bell on campus pay $3.60, while they pay $4.10 off campus. But some meals at Subway and Pizza Hut cost slightly more for students. Students paying with Big Red Cards or meal plans usually pay less or equal prices at off campus stores.

“You always want more than what you pay. It’s just human nature,” Chrisler said. “But that’s something that makes my job very interesting.”

Bowling Green freshman Kelley Manning doesn’t have a meal plan this year but wishes she did.

“I wish my parents had gotten me a meal plan,” she said. “I think it’s ridiculous how much I pay for food.”

Manning didn’t realize when she bought a 6-inch sub, chips and a drink from Subway on Tuesday that the $4.79 deducted from her Big Red dollars account was more than the $4.27 it would have cost had she paid for it using a 10-meals-a-week meal plan.

“I eat on campus about twice a day,” Manning said. “I mean, that could really add up.”

Herald reporter Joseph Lord contributed to this story.

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