Students should not be forced into expensive meal plans


Guilford College is a school based on recognizing individual needs and catering to them. But is that principle carried outside of the classroom?

Maybe on paper, but not on plate. Guilford College meal plan options are not reasonable in terms of the variety or price. The food choices are inconsistent, and most plans are unnecessarily pricey.

Junior Britton Dunn feels as though mandatory meal plans are an anomaly for students like him.

“I am on a scholarship and have a lot of financial aid, yet I still have to pay for these exorbitant meal plans that I don’t really want,” said Dunn.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, an adequate low-cost grocery budget for a single, college-age person would be about $40 to $60 dollars a week. A liberal budget would fall between $70 and $80 dollars.

The average first-year students’ meal plan is double that, at roughly $150 per every week they are on campus.

“It makes me spend more money than I have to and more money than I can really afford,” said Dunn. He is currently on the 100-block plan, but still believes it would be cheaper to buy all of his own groceries.

Not every student personally feels the burden of meal plan expenses, but many still look at the cost critically.

“I can understand that this is a private school, and of course it’s going to be more expensive,” said first-year Imani Ames. “But my parents and I together spent less than that on food (before Guilford).”

She is on the Quaker 19 plan, costing a whopping $2,415 per semester.

The only ways students can get out of a meal plan are to move off-campus, a difficult process within itself, or provide a doctor’s note validating exemption.

Going through the exemption process can be tedious — especially for students without a general practitioner in the area. For this reason, many students are stuck with an inflexible meal plan that they must grapple with to meet their needs.

The lack of variety is one thing that often causes complaints from students of all backgrounds.

“There often isn’t a gluten-free grain available,” said senior Sophie Laine, who avoids the protein for health reasons.

She compensates by supplementing her diet with grains she buys herself. This requires an extra trip to the store each week and more money spent on top of an already costly meal plan.

Vegetarian and vegan students feel the same struggle with dish variability. Some days there may be three plant-based protein sources available, and other days there are none.

Part of what students are paying for in these high-priced plans is the convenience of walking into a Guilford dining venue and eating without giving it much thought. When there is insufficient variety, however,  that benefit becomes compromised.

Junior Vince Schueren lives in the Pines, where he contributes $15 weekly to a house grocery fund. He has a 100-block meal plan in addition to house meals, which he feels works out well for him.

But he does note that if living in a space where groceries were bought individually, his total food budget would be unreasonable.

“Meal plan prices are adjusted annually based on cost increases (for example, consumer price index increases for food),” said Director of Dining Services Snehal Deshmukh in an email interview.

While dining services are considering their own bottom line for expenses, they are failing to recognize that students also feel the effects.

For those who are not feeling the burden of a lagging economy, $2,000 or more meal plans might be just fine. For the rest of us, they feel unfair.

Meal plan options should be reconsidered for the sake of all students.

We are unique. We have different priorities. Dining options should reflect that.

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