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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Univ and Aramark must update dining

Published: March 19, 2010
Section: Editorials

When it comes to food on campus, students are often quick to blame Aramark for the less than desirable cuisine. This week Aramark has been using the outside firm Marketmatch Research to conduct and process statistics on student dining options to change menu choices and add grab-and-go options.  We view this as a step in the right direction, and hope many positive changes to the student dining experience will come from this.

More important than giving more food options, however, is changing the impractical meal plans and the “meal equivalency” rules that come with them.

On the meal plans with 10, 14 or 21 meals, meals can only be used in a specific timeslot. This is impractical for students whose classes run from 8 to 11 a.m. and will therefore never make it to “breakfast” as defined by Aramark and the university between the hours of 8:45 and 10:30 a.m.

The greater annoyance is the “meal equivalency” system which only allows certain items–regardless of price–to be bought with a meal.  On the 10 or 14 meal plans, students may use their accompanying points on a hot meal at the P.O.D. market or a large sub at Quizno’s, but never a meal.

We cannot even apply extra points on top of that large sub’s meal value in dollars. Instead of being able to fill a meal with anything, students are regulated to what Aramark and the university deem fit, which limits their options far more than any dining hall menu could. For loosening meal time rules, we understand that the time limits are practical in terms of meal-dollar allocation.

But the week should be given the point equivalent of the meals so they may eat what and when they choose. The 10 and 14 meal plans could be balanced with a system based on their relative costs, from a certain number of dinners and lunches.

As for the “meal equivalency” system, it should be eliminated.  The program discriminates on taste and choice preferences because things that are ostensibly the same price to the university in terms of revenue are differentiated for an unfathomable purpose.

While we urge Aramark to revamp offerings to the university to reflect student choice, even more important is that Brandeis listen to its students and not be afraid to accept whatever plans may come from the Marketmatch research.

Aramark, constantly maligned, needs to modernize its menu choices. But the university should put students first and update meal policies so students can conveniently and adequately select from the new offerings.