MC meal plan flexibility

mealPeanut butter and jelly sandwich, apple, chips, and maybe a sweet note from mom handwritten on the napkin tucked inside the bag. During the pre-college days, lunch was the favorite subject but mostly an afterthought. Time is a luxury these days, and for the average college student, lunch is not easy to fit in every day, especially for those who find themselves in student-teaching positions.

All students living in the dorms at Mississippi College are required to participate in the meal plan program. These students are given the single option of partaking in 19 meals a week with an added $200 in points which may be used at food service locations around campus including Hampstead’s, Pimento’s, The Commons coffee shop, the Smoothie shop, and the library coffee shop.

Since the obsoletion of the Tuscany food service location, students have lost one of the few places around campus that kept late hours-a perk nearly essential for the survival of the majority of college students. In addition to the accessibility, Tuscany was attractive because of the selection of hot foods they offered such as pizzas and paninis.

The current meal plan established for boarding students works as follows: Meal plan costs are included in the on-campus living charge that covers room and board.  Students can have the set number of 19 meals each week. Multiple meal purchases at one time must be paid for with points or cash. There is no “rollover” with meals like minutes on a cellphone plan. That means week to week, fall to spring, the number of meals per week stays the same regardless of unused meals.

Commuters also have the option to purchase meal plans, which include prepaid meals that can be used at the Caf at any meal and points to eat everywhere else on campus. If points run out, there is always the option of purchasing more. They can be added to an existing meal plan or points may be purchased separately.

Mike Prince, Director of Food Services at MC, related that 3 years ago, more options were in place that allowed students either more meals with less dollars to spend at alternate food venues or less meals per week with a larger amount of points. The school’s solution was to combine the best parts of all these plans.

“Students wanted to maximize their points; they wanted the ability to eat a meal if they were out of money.  I think we met that goal at the time by incorporating the best of all the meal plans to make one,” said Prince.

Since the change, Prince reported receiving about 80 percent positive feedback. As a positive result of the steady stream of feedback, many changes have been made in the campus-dining arena including menu items and service hours. Prince explained that anytime there is a major change, the school and student organizations are involved and surveyed for their opinions.

In the case of meal plans, they found that combining was the best solution. There is the possibility of more options down the road. Unlimited seconds and all you can eat options are on the table; although, the fruits of the decisions regarding those kinds of options will not ripen for another year it seems.

Whereas bigger schools have the customer base for different plans, MC remains in the little league of dining. Multiple meal plans means finding a way to have more control in the dining area without increase in cost. The meal plan “option” will have to tie everyone over until another improved solution develops.

– Bethany Kuhn, Reporter

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