Dining Services implements changes to meal plan

Dining services will make several big changes starting next fall. Current pilot-programs will be made permanent and changes will be made to the meal plan. Grab-n-go in the Science Center and Sharples to-go will become permanent. In addition to changes that have occurred this semester, the meal plan will be changed to allow more flexibility.

Changes to the meal plan include apportioning meals per semester, as opposed to on a weekly basis, and the ability to use half of the  points in certain Ville businesses. There will be four options for meal plans: Swat, Garnet, Phoenix, and Parrish. Swat includes unlimited meal swipes and 300 points, 150 which must be used on campus. Garnet is 225 meals per semester and 500 points, 300 of which must be used on campus. Phoenix is 225 meals with 700 points, 300 to use off-campus. Parrish has 160 meals per semester and 900 points, 400 points which can be used in the Ville.

Dining services has been working with the Dining Committee and other parts of the administration during the past year to make these changes.  The committee met several times throughout the last year and included students and administration. They tried to focus on issues on campus such as an increased population, desire for more meal flexibility, and meal rush-hours due to the class schedule, according to Sierra Spencer ’18 who is a member of the Dining Committee. The pilot-programs along with the meal changes help accomplish this goal.

The changes were possible because of the new One Card program which will replace all students IDs and upgrade the technology.

“The technology is enabling us to add flexibility to our meal plans and will also lead to the ability to use smartphones as an alternative to the ID card itself for certain uses,” said Executive Director of Auxiliary Services Anthony Coschignano.

Next year the meal plan will cost $7,036, there will continue to be one price for all meal plans as there is this year. Although the students will be receiving many more points than in previous years the meal plan price will only increase by 3.5%, a typical increase for the meal plan.

“In order to maintain appropriate staffing levels and provide continued good service to the community, we have reallocated resources to provide greater flexibility in our meal plans for next year,” said Coschignano.  

The changes help to address student’s concerns about flexibility in the meal plan. There are more options for meal plans, with the addition of the unlimited and 10 meals per week plans, and allowing meals to roll-over week to week.

Spencer was impressed by the administration’s willingness and ability to make changes this semester.

“So I think because there were so many people involved who had sway in different departments it actually made it a lot easier than I thought it was going to be,” said Spencer.

The committee included Dean Braun, Vice President of Finance Greg Brown and Anthony Coschignano.

Spencer said the administration made sure to provide reasons when a change was not possible. While some changes were able to happen as soon as next semester other issues will be slower. One issue that Spencer and Coschignano mentioned was the need to renovate the current eating spaces on campus.

“One of the big changes that we had talked about was having the spaces changed. So expanding Sharples and then also renovating Essie’s and I think there’s plans for both of them in the works but I guess for our time here we might not see them,” said Spencer “I would like to see more short-term change that we would actually be able to experience. But I think it’s just not possible to completely renovate Essie’s or be able to change the format in such short period of time.”

Spencer expressed concern for students lack of knowledge about dining services. Many students do not know much about the Dining Services staffing situation or understand how the prices and meal point equivalencies are calculated

“I think there’s a big gap between what students perceive, the complaints and the actual reasons behind the way things work. … I know another thing that we talked about was the point equivalent to a meal, so I think if students were more informed about why that is I think there would be less complaints but I think in general they’ve struggled to be able to have information received.”

The college has had difficulty getting information out to the students in a platform that is accessible to the students. Dining services has tried to create a mandatory orientation activity but has been unsuccessful so far. The orientation activity would try to bridge the gap between students knowledge about Dining Services and the behind the scenes of Dining on campus. The goal would be to explain how dining service works and why it works that way.

The meal plan will look different next semester and there are likely to be even more changes to Dining Services in the future.

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