Is your meal plan eating you?
The Davidsonian answers your burning questions
Published: Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Updated: Sunday, September 11, 2011 17:09
Love it or hate it, the meal plan is a huge part of life on campus. Whether students have 19 meals or one, Davidson's meal policy can dictate when, where and, occasionally, with whom they eat. But what factors determine the college's meal plan arrangement?
"The college for years has been part of a consortium of schools called the Cambridge Group, and these are the schools that are considered, for the most part, our peer institutions (Williams, Amherst, Swarthmore, Grinnell, etc.)," Richard Terry, Director of Auxiliary Services, said.
"Historically, we have been roughly in the middle of that pack in terms of what our dining plan has been," he said.
In terms of meal plan options, it is important to know that Davidson is self-operated. "We are actually employed by the college. There's no third-party contractor such as Bon Appetit," Phillips said. So from where does the food come?
"We buy from a primary food distributor," Terry said. This primary food distributor is U.S. Food Services, and it delivers truckloads of raw product 4 times a week; upon arrival, employees of the college prepare and serve the food.
The ability to use meal plan at the Union and the Den for up to $7.95 as opposed to $7.60 last year simply reflects that Dining Services has taken into account inflation. When meal plans increase in cost from year to year, Dining Services makes it a priority to reflect this change in how much students can purchase with their meals.
INDIVIDUAL MEAL COST
|Union & Den Limit||$7.95|
Why are lunch and dinner door prices different at Commons even though the variety of food offered seems the same?
"It's an industry standard that lunch is typically cheaper," Dee Phillips, Director of Dining Services, said.
"There's not a large difference between our lunch and dinner in terms of what we offer. They're pretty much comparable. So that we don't have to make both of them so high, we offset them and keep them with the industry standards."
Terry said that the meal plan costs (see chart) vary little from year to year. These percentages are from last spring, but Mr. Terry says there is little variance from semester to semester.
MEAL PLAN USAGE STATISTICS
|Plan Type||Cost per Meal*||Avg. Weekly Participation**|
"Our meal plan pricing assumes that students will not eat every meal and because the percentages do not change much at all from year to year, we are able to stay very consistent in our plan pricing."
"If we [allowed meal plans to rollover meals daily or weekly] we would have to change the price and the plan because the plan pricing and costing is predicated on a certain percentage that is not going to be eaten," Terry said.
"So changes to the meal plan that would dramatically change those participation rates would make us have to go back and take a look at how we price those out," he said. The meal plan is the way it is in terms of structure so Dining Services can anticipate participation and plan accordingly.
"If for reasons unknown to us, every student started using 100% of every meal every week we would have a very rough year because the whole budget is set up on the knowledge of how often students use their meal plan. Our budget structure anticipates percentage of use. Frankly, they don't change much in a year," he said.
In terms of meal plan restrictions at the Union, "Our biggest problem is that the café is really small," Phillips said. "We could not handle any more business. So if we put meal plan in the middle of the day, we just can't do it. We physically have no space to store food."