Every single semester students groan at the thought of a meal plan.
There’s always something wrong with the meal plans and California Lutheran University students should have the option to not have one without having to petition when living in a standard dorm.
I went through the petition process and let me just say, it wasn’t fun. First, you have to fill out an application and hope it even gets approved. Once it is approved, you must explain your reason as to why you shouldn’t have a meal plan to a small panel of people who work for Residence Life.
It should not be hard getting off a meal plan, especially when it isn’t worth students’ money.
“For me, it’s cheaper to make my own food especially because I don’t want to be in the position where I am reliant on Centrum, Starbucks, Commons, Jamba Juice, Ullman-to-go in order to eat, and get there and not have anything to eat, and I can’t live off of bagels and chips at Ullman-to-go,” vegan Jessica Gott said.
Gott currently has to make the choice of eating the veggie burgers at Centrum and in the Commons, which aren’t vegan because they have cheese or egg in them, so she isn’t left feeling hungry.
Gott is on the Student Culinary Council where she works with other students to improve the dining experience, whether it is giving feedback to the chef and telling them what works, if food is being labeled wrong or if there just aren’t enough options for all dietary needs. Even though the SCC tries its best to improve dining, it doesn’t always seem to work.
“It depends on the day. It’s kind of hit or miss. Yesterday on the screen on the Mongolian BBQ place, on the screen it had something different listed for what they were offering,” Gott said.
Having the correct food on the screen should be an easy fix, but there are other problems. The greatest problem is options for everyone. If students feel they aren’t being included, then why should they pay?
Along with not being inclusive, students just do not have the time to eat. Personally, I can’t eat three meals a day. I always have a class during the meal periods and I bet if you were to ask other students, there is a good chance they will say the same thing.
The question is, what happens to these meals when you don’t eat three times a day?
“All unused meals just get cleared by the system at the end of the spring semester. Flex dollars are also cleared out at the end of the spring semester since they are part of a meal plan, whereas, munch money stays on the card for the entire time they remain a student,” said Nathan Fall, director of Housing Operations, said in an email interview.
Why are we paying for meals swipes that get thrown away at the end of the semester? A 19-meal plan costs $6,170 per year, according to the Cal Lutheran website, but students missing meal periods are not using that entire dollar amount.
“Since there are different plans the price point varies. It is certainly much better than the advertised door price, but I do not know the exact breakdown. The Residence Life office is responsible for communicating meal plans, assigning them, bring the student’s voice to the table, but not in charge of negotiations with Sodexo on price point. As with anything, the more students on a plan, the lesser the increase from year-to-year, just like bulk buying from a place like Costco versus the grocery store,” Fall said.
If meal plans are not optional, then students should at least get their unused meal swipes back as their money value or unused meal swipes should get rolled over.