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New meal plans proposed for off-campus students, seniors

By Josh Rutenberg     2/5/09 6:00pm

Seniors and off-campus students may soon see another option on the list of meal plan choices if barriers to planning such a drastic change can be overcome. The new plan, a joint effort between the Student Association and Residential Dining Director David McDonald, will explore the feasibility of a meal option that would allow seniors and off-campus students to purchase a yearly package of 10 meals per week.

Currently, students living on-campus have only one meal plan option: 19 meals per week. Off-campus students currently also have the option to purchase the 19-meal plan, a five-meal plan or not to purchase a meal plan at all. The newly proposed plan would be available to seniors and fifth year students, as well as all off-campus students.

McDonald said the current meal plan arrangement discourages many off-campus students from eating in the serveries.

"Not a lot of off-campus students eat here at lunch," McDonald said. "Off-campus students would be paying a lot [more] with a larger meal plan than with tetra points at the door."

In addition to adding the 10 meals per week plan, McDonald said he also hopes to increase awareness about the current five meals per week plan offered to off-campus students.

Student Association External Vice President Nicholas Muscara lauded the increased options that Housing and Dining would be offering.

"Our goal is to offer students more of a choice," Muscara said.

The project began last semester when Muscara, a Martel College sophomore, and Selim Sheikh, a Martel Senator, investigated ways to change the meal plan options. At the time, Sheikh, a sophomore, was pushing for more options for Muslim students during Ramadan. After he talked with McDonald, the plan began to form.

Muscara said he has spoken with the SA senate about the additional meal plan options and has received an overwhelmingly positive response. Muscara pointed out that the new plans would be beneficial to a large number of seniors who have responsibilities such as jobs that require them to be off campus often. He said he also feels that the addition of the new plan might attract seniors back on campus.

"Typically, it's hard for OC students to return to the servery," Muscara said.

Muscara said he hopes that by making the meal plans more convenient, seniors will have a more significant presence in their colleges' day to day lives.

However, the proposal has seen significant obstacles since its inception. McDonald said that adding the new plans is a numbers game: rising gas prices, subsidizing prices for students after Hurricane Ike and the recession have all threatened to hold up the new meal plans. To make matters worse, food prices have increased an average of 7 percent across the nation, and freezes in the northeast have resulted in diminishing food quality, he said.

"In the 22 years I've been in the food business, I've never seen food rise by as much and in as such a short period of time as it has this past year," McDonald said.

Nevertheless, McDonald is hopeful that the plan will be met with success, if not this year then in the near future. By 2010, when the new residential colleges are fully inhabited, McDonald predicts the plans will be able to be implemented. Before then, if the committee accepts the plan, it will also need to be approved by the Dean of Undergraduates.

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