Changes in meal plan spark confusion around campus

By Rachel Epstein

Arts & Life Editor

The new meal plan is a concept that, with a bit of effort and clear information, can in fact be understood. Much like a medium-level algebra concept, the new meal plan is daunting at first.

Some might even say it is unnecessary. But, once it clicks, you will likely feel like a fool.

Several students, new and old, are dumbfounded with the inner-workings of the new dining hall meal plan. They’ve asked, “What’s the deal with the new meal plans?” “How do debit dollars work?” “What does ‘overhead’ mean?” “Isn’t this just my money?”

According to Bon Appetit and Denison Dining, the overarching purpose for the changes to the meal plan stem from the desire to provide more options for students. That is, the changes provide more flexibility to eat when and where the students want without worrying about running out of flex dollars. It also provides more convenience because it gives students the option of eating at the dining hub that is closest and most practical for them at any given time.

There are two separate entities when it comes to the meal plans. First, there is the “Big Red-All You Care to Eat Plan.” This plan will give students unlimited access to Curtis and Huffman dining halls.

For the organized budgeter, it might be helpful to know that breakfast is priced at $6, lunch at $7 and dinner at $8.

The “Big Red” plan also gives students 30 “meal specials” which are essentially “meal ex swipes,” to use at Slayter Union. Additionally, “Big Red” plan users get $100 in “debit dollars” that can be used at Slayter as a retail option. It is easiest to equate that $100 to “flex.”

Then we move to the other options, which are grouped together under the title “Declining Balance Meal Plans.” They are as follows: The Hill (16 meals per week), Olmsted (14 meals per week) and West College (12 meals per week). The simplest way to understand this is that when students paid for their room and board they put a set amount of money into a debit dollar account for meals. Students can use this amount of money at Curtis or Huffman dining halls and any time at Slayter for anything.

Well, kind of. The caveat to all of the meal plans is that they cannot be used at Slayter between the hours of 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. According to Bon Appetit, this change is to provide a retail meal space for faculty and staff in Slayter Union.

For apartment dwellers, the only options for meal plans are the Reserve (11 meals per week) and 1831 (12 meals per week). These function as “Declining Balance Meal Plans.”

Many students probably have questions about what the new meal plans mean and how to stay on track with budgeting. Emma Gamble ‘17 is just one of the students who is struggling to understand how the meal plan changes affect financial balance as she notes, “while I like being able to go to Slayter for meals more, I don’t get why the meal plans that have less declining balance pay more for dining hall overhead.

Even though there’s more flexibility, it still seems like they [Bon Appetit and Denison Dining] want students to eat more of their meals at Curtis and Huffman dining halls.” That being said, the new meal plans are intended to increase flexibility and broaden the when and where for student meal options. It appears confusion is rampant around campus, but Dining Services are trying to help.

The addition of laminated budget charts in Slayter Union and the Huffman and Curtis dining halls might help students who are struggling to stay on track with the declining balance plans.