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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Details on dining: Which meal plan is best?

Published: December 2, 2011
Section: Opinions

After eating turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie during Thanksgiving break, coming back to dining hall food was not easy. I had forgotten what it felt like to eat without having to show anyone your ID, without having to count how much money your food would cost in order to decide if you were over or under a meal, or having to debate whether to use a meal or points while waiting in line. Sometimes it seems as though the meal options available to students have not been considered properly because—although the food at Brandeis is not bad at all and it truthfully must be really difficult to cook for thousands of persons everyday—what Thanksgiving break reminded me of was not the quality of the food but the major flaws in our meal plan options.

Every semester students have the opportunity to choose from seven meal plans: the 21-meal plan, the 14-meal plan, the 5-meal combo plan (which is not available to first-years), the 10-meal combo plan, the $1,400 all-points meal plan (also not available to first-years), the flex plan and the Village plan (for Village residents only). Clearly, first-years have the least amount of options or flexibility with their meal plans, which is more than inconvenient considering that first-years get to campus without knowing how meal plans work, how expensive the food is, how many meals they eat per week or how much money they generally spend on food.

Most students I know (all first-years) decided to choose the 21-meal plan option before arriving at Brandeis. They did so partly because their parents were afraid they would go hungry and partly because they didn’t know any better. Most of these students, however, changed their meal plans before classes even started, mostly because they realized that eating all 21 meals a week is almost impossible. I was one of these students. I’d heard older Brandeisians complaining about the 21-meal plan, so I decided to change to the 10-meal combo plan. As it turned out, changing my meal plan was the worst thing I could have done. I ran out of points in the middle of the semester (yes, I know it has never happened to anyone before) and since then all I have is 10 meals a week, WhoCash and a very empty wallet.

There are some very large flaws regarding meal plan options at Brandeis, the first and most important one is the lack of flexibility that these meal plans offer. If, for example, you have three meals left by Sunday night, you cannot take advantage of all of them because you are only allowed to use one meal per meal period. The 21-meal plan offers no points—which usually come in handy at Einsteins or the C-Store, which is ridiculously overpriced. The meal options that have points, however, do not offer enough meals per week for people who have three meals a day most days.

Perhaps these problems could be solved by a new meal plan option that resembles the 10-meal combo plan, but has a few more meals per week. Something like 15 meals a week and points would be perfect. Even a customized meal plan option or a WhoCash-based meal plan would work.

Meals should not be such a great concern among students at Brandeis but sadly they are and next semester, along with promising new classes, new friends and more fun, comes the dreaded question: “Which meal plan should I get?”