Wooster students have acquired some substantial food for thought this semester as the College puts into practice a variety of alterations to the meal plan for fall 2008 and beyond

“Student input was critical to make the creation of meal plan choices a priority for our administration,” said Director of Hospitality Services Chuck Wagers, citing specific requests from Wooster students on the subject in recent years.

Wagers went on to state that offering the meal plan choices to students were made a priority as a result of these requests and a consequential 2006 Student Dining Study of nine comparable colleges’ food operations.

“In that study we concluded that of the nine, only Wooster and Kenyon [college] did not offer some number of meal plan choices, and that we should make meal plan choices a priority to offer Wooster students,” explained Wagers.

Under the previous meal plan, a student was given three swipes a day total to be used at Lowry Dining Hall, Kittredge or Java Hut only. The new system allows the user to select one of two options.

Plan A allows for 288 meal swipes to be used at Lowry or Kittredge over the course of a semester and $150 “Flex Dollars” to purchase meals at the dining halls or items at merged Mom’s and Old Main Caf√©. Plan B offers 200 meals and 450 Flex Dollars.

Wagers elaborated on how the process of putting the new policy into motion was started.

“Design for the new plans began after carefully utilizing the professional resources that we had available such as the 2006 Student Dining Study information, the NACUFS (National Association of College and University Food Services) Meal Plan Online Course and Worksheet Tools, our own financial history and the 2008-2009 budget projections,” he said.

The decision process took into account increases in expense as a result of rising food and transportation costs, the price to use biodegradable disposable carry-out containers, utility cost increases and labor costs.

The e-mail from Hospitality Services in late summer announcing the new plan compelled students to calculate change in value from the old plan to the new one.

Increase in cost of the meal plan is $280 from the 2007-2008 school year to 2008-2009. Lindsay Brainard ’10 even created a Facebook group assessing the financial technicalities of the meal plan in relation to proportionate worth.

Main questions raised in this group and throughout the student body included suggestions that there may not be a fair balance of Flex Dollars and meal swipes offered in each plan, as well as the concern that there is now less money to use at locations other than the dining halls, regardless of what plan is chosen.

Wagers addressed these concerns in turn. In response to swipe/Flex inequivalence, he stated that Plan A was intended to provide enough funding between swipes and Flex to purchase three meals per day, like the previous 21 meal per week plan. While Plan B has 30 percent fewer dining hall meals, it instead offers 300 percent more Flex Dollars to spend.

Objections stemming from lack of alternative options were justified with the sentiment that students had felt obliged to maximize their allocated meal funds through trips to Java Hut to needlessly purchase everything possible, leading to objectionable slower and longer lines.

“Prices will not be reduced at the dining alternatives, however there will be value added services available to students such as a specially priced daily lunch special in Mom’s on weekdays, inexpensive Mom’s Late-night menu items and monthly Free (no meal swipe or Flex required) All-Student Special meals in either Lowry or Kittredge,” stated Wagers.

Under Hospitality Services’ conception, the new meal plans are meant to enable students to purchase food and drinks in smaller quantities but with greater frequency.

“These block meal plans are based upon number of meals per semester and do not limit students to the number of meal swipes they may use per day or week,” explained Wagers. This means that if a student has a guest visiting campus, it is now much easier to purchase them a meal from the dining hall by simply employing the use of a swipe.

Wagers went on to conclude that the new meal plans’ flexibility and economy is similar to the plans offered by many other schools, including Oberlin College and Allegheny College.