Meal plan choices simplified to four

Rachel Logan, Features Editor

In preparation for this school year, student meal plans were condensed and reworked last year in time for housing and dining contracting season in April. 

Housing and Dining Services Executive Director Bob Knipple has  had his position only for a few months and said he was not one of the driving forces in the change.

He has, however, been dealing with all meal plan contracts since the switch. 

“All of Sodexo (business) used to be under the vice president of Finance and Administration. Basically, what has happened is they’ve taken the dining portion and put it in Student Affairs.”

Knipple said that, last year, there were four tiers of plans, each with a set price. There were two plans per tier, one with more dining dollars and one with more meal swipes. There was also a high plan with unlimited meals and a low amount of dining dollars, and a low tier of two commuter plans.

Knipple said that he and Finance and Administration Vice President Amy Buxbaum were some of the people working to improve the meal plan system, along with outgoing Sodexo General Manager Kevin Dicey and Auxiliary Services Executive Director Joyce Radovanic. 

Buxbaum said she didn’t oversee the change, but that it was more of a group decision.

“We’re always trying to find the mix (of meal swipes and dining dollars) that works the most for the most people,” Buxbaum said. “As students live on campus, the dining hall is their kitchen.”

Based on feedback Knipple said the team acquired through surveys and random personal interviews, he said students seemed to want fewer choices.

“There were so many that differed (from each other) by as little as 5 or 25 meals,” Knipple said.

“We took the most popular choices and developed new meal plans from there.”

The new plan cuts out seven of the 11 plans from last year, leaving one plan from the highest tier, both from the second-to-highest tier and a single updated commuter plan.

Knipple said that a lot of feedback collected from commuters was that they wanted more dining dollars. 

To reflect that, the new commuter plan includes 5 meals and 500 dining dollars and costs $500. A commuter plan used to cost $885 and included either 65 meals and 170 dining dollars or 55 meals and 220 dining dollars. 

“They’re taking their meals more at the Tuck Shop and the Brioche D’Oree, and not so much in the dining hall,” Knipple said.

If commuters are worried about running out of dining dollars with the new plan, Knipple said he encourages them to get Mt. Cat Cash.

“Mt. Cat Cash is similar (to money on the commuter plan) in that money goes on a declining account.”

He said Mt. Cat Cash is not only usable at any Sodexo venue, but also at the Student Union bookstore.

Knipple said that Mt. Cat Cash is paid up front, while meal plans are added to a student’s financial account, to be paid for alongside tuition. Mt. Cat Cash also does not expire between semesters or across years, as long as a student is actively enrolled, while meal plans extras do not carry over to the next term.

The next lowest pair of plans above the commuter plan is $1,910 and includes 150 meals and 350 dining dollars or 125 meals and $425 dining dollars.

Knipple said that students who live on campus but who have shifted to a residence with a stovetop, such as in a townhouse or a College Park apartment, are not required to have a full meal plan; they may have a commuter plan or even no plan at all. 

He said that in the townhouses, 91 students have one of the two cheaper full meal plans, 45 have the commuter plan and 38 have no meal plan. In the College Park Apartments, 42 students have one of the two lower plans, 29 have the commuter plan and 34 have no plan.

Knipple said more people may have a full meal plan than have the commuter plan because they don’t realize they are eligible not to have a full plan. 

Commuter freshman Sarah Al-Ubaidi said she doesn’t have a meal plan. 

“I have a quinoa salad waiting for me when I get home. Why would I eat here?

“There’s no reason for me to waste money when I can get food at home—and it’s not healthy. I tried to get a smoothie yesterday, and they said they were out of the flavors I wanted.”

Senior Joe Bumbaugh said he lives in a townhouse. 

“I have 500 dining dollars and 5 swipes because I still wanted to have a meal plan and that was the cheapest.”

He said last year, he ate at the Varsity Café almost every day.

“I’m definitely never going to use the swipes, especially if the Varsity Café is closed for dinner.”