Meal plans by the numbers

Meal plans by the numbers

Photo by Paula Dirks.

Photo by Paula Dirks.

In times of economic instability, skyrocketing unemployment and uncertain financial futures, a lot of people are examining their budgets and looking for places to cut back and save money. Upon closer inspection of our own budgets, Lydia Short and I found one item that was draining more money than it should.

The 80-block meal plan offered by Sodexo costs $920. This price includes $185 of munch money and 80 meals, redeemable any time during the semester.

Subtract the munch money – which is essentially cash that can only be spent certain places – and the 80 meals at the Rott end up costing $735 total. Divide $735 by 80, and you get $9.18.

This means that for people who purchase the 80 block meal plan, the average cost of a meal at the Rott is $9.18!

The most expensive meal at the Rott is dinner, which rings up at $9.95 plus tax if you pay cold cash and only $7.46 when using munch money. This means that you only get your money’s worth if you use the vast majority of your 80 meals at dinner time.

For 80-block users, each breakfast costs about $4 more than it would for someone paying cash. Lunch is around $1.80 extra.

The difference between meal plan users and people who use munch money is even more stark. A meal plan breakfast is $5 more than a munch money breakfast at the Rott.

When you subscribe to a magazine, you pay up-front for a year’s worth of issues. The incentive for this is a large discount, compared to buying individual issues. When you subscribe to a meal plan from Sodexo – which is required by the college – you pay ahead of time for a certain number of meals throughout the semester.

It is reasonable to assume that since you have forked over a hefty chunk of change, the caterer could use that money to buy food in bulk at a greater value. By this logic, paying ahead of time should lead to overall cheaper prices which should then be transferred on to the customer.

Sodexo forcefully bucks the trend of rewarding loyal customers by charging 43 percent more for breakfast, 20 percent more for lunch and a paltry 10 percent less for dinner, than when paying with cash.

If people were allowed to buy only munch money, an option currently only available to students who live off campus, the change in food cost would be drastic. Eighty dinners and $185 worth of munch money would only cost $781.

Essentially, students who comply with the requirement of purchasing a meal plan are punished, paying $138 more for the 80 block plan than they would if they bought the equivalent in munch money.

This is probably one reason the Food Services Task Force is looking into other caterers.

Chase Snyder is a junior communication and environmental science double major from Denver, Colo.

Lydia Short is a junior math and piano pedagogy double major from Kalona, Iowa.

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