Students, dining services adapting to new meal plan


Jessica Newbacher

Changes to the meal plan for this year have resulted in an adjustment period for students and members of the dining services staff.

As the new meal plan for Baldwin Wallace University is implemented, students across campus are expressing mixed feelings about the changes.

In the beginning of the Fall 2017 semester, Baldwin Wallace announced the meal plan would be changing, along with other dining options around the campus. The original meal plan was based on an à la carte system, where students could purchase food items with individual prices from the dining halls in the Union, Lang, the Cyber Café, and other eating spots on campus.

With the new changes, students are now able to buy a meal plan at the beginning of the semester, such as 21 meals a week, 14 meals a week, etc., where they can swipe into a dining hall and take as much food as they want for one price.

Similarly, with the original meal plan, students could spend money on books and items from the bookstore with the same money used to buy food; with the new plan, Flex Dollars are used to buy books and other miscellaneous expenses while food money and meal equivalency are completely separated.

For both students and staff, with new changes comes uncertainty. For Dave Jensen, director of Auxiliary Services, considering all the outcomes and factors of the new plan is of great importance.

“Since the first week, I’ve seen progress,” he said. “For instance, we were probably not anticipating the amount of food and how and when the students were eating, but since then we’ve done a better job getting our cooking procedures down and timing down.”

The first week since the implementation of the plan was hectic for both students and dining services staff, but as the initial confusion died down, it appears dining procedures are becoming more relaxed and easier to navigate. Even so, Jensen said, there were some speed-bumps that were not accounted for, such as a lack of staffing.

With the opening of new businesses on Baldwin Wallace’s campus, such as Starbucks, many current staff members have been moved over to these new places, thus depleting the number of staff in the dining halls.

“We’re still waiting to get all our staff in place,” said Jensen, “to open all of our existing [just-in-time cooking], fusion [station] on a daily basis […] we have started more of our cook-to-order stations.”

Overall, Jensen said, things are going well with the current system, and dining services hopes to implement more improvements, such as placing the swipe station at the front door, opening the dining stations more, and bringing more food options to better serve the students.

From the students’ perspective, the new meal plans have been met with some mixed opinions. For example, Lauryn Cook, a current freshman, came to Baldwin Wallace this Fall and only knows the new meal plan.

“I think it is fine,” she said. “I didn’t know what it was like before, and I can get as much food as I want. For people who don’t really eat a lot, I guess it really wouldn’t work out for them, but it’s fine for me.”

For Cook, even though the meal plan is working for her, she said there are some things to be improved.

“When you want to get a to-go container, you have to pay an additional $0.50, and you’re not allowed to get more food, so you swipe, pay extra, and can’t get extra food. I am not too happy about that,” said Cook.

While first year students may not have strong feelings on the new system, that is not always the case on the other side of the coin, with upperclassmen who have switched from the original à la carte system to the new swipe plan.

Senior Kyle Fisher said he is conflicted about how easy it is to eat as much food — mostly unhealthy food — as he wants.

“I can just go in and splurge myself on everything,” he said. “With the old setup, the salads were the first things you saw when you walked in, but now all the healthy options are hidden in the back. It’s too easy for me to make bad decisions.”

While it is “easier” to eat more of the unhealthy foods because they are the first things students see when they walk in, Fisher said that he is getting more bang for his buck with the new system.

“I feel like I am [getting my money’s worth] because I go in like six times to get another plate,” said Fisher. “Especially if I get the more expensive stuff that’s hidden away in the middle area [of the dining hall] that no one actually looks at.”

Some upperclassmen decided to use some of the smaller meal plans, and others decide to not purchase a meal plan at all, such as commuter students who have their own plan available to them.

Commuter student Amari Sewell said he decided to not purchase a meal plan because he did not find it cost-effective or effective for those students who don’t live on campus.

“The [price for the commuter meal plan] is kind of a sweet spot if you plan on getting twenty-five lunches or twenty-five dinners; however, most commuter students don’t do that—they don’t even really use the Union anymore,” said Sewell.