First-years face new restrictions on meal plan usage

Every year, first-year students and upperclassmen alike are given choices on everything from dorm selections to classes to dining plans. This year proves to be no exception, as a new block meal plan is being initiated at Carnegie Mellon University.
Unlike last year?s meal plan, under which students could purchase a fixed dollar amount?s worth of food with a block, first-year students are now required to purchase ?block meals,? specially designated meals consisting of a sandwich or salad, a drink, and a snack. First-year students are given three major meal plan choices: Bronze, Silver, and Gold. The Bronze meal plan gives students the fewest meals biweekly, while the Gold meal plan gives them the most meals. Within each of these plans, students are allowed to select how much DineXtra money they will have for the two-week meal sessions. As stipulated in the Dining Service Contract, block meals allow students to purchase value meals on any on-campus dining locations, while DineXtra dollars enable students to purchase meals a la carte.
First-year students are advised to consider all the dining options and select the plan that best fits their dietary habits. However, the Dining Service Contract that first-years submit will allow them to change their meal plans between Monday, September 13 and Friday, September 24 of this semester.

Reviews of the meal block plan by students and parents have been mixed. The Student Body Dining Committee (SBDC) reported that many students who completed dining comment cards were pleased with the meals being offered, while other students were dissatisfied with the amount of structure the block meals create. First-year creative writing major Theresa Campobasso said of her meal plan: ?At first it seemed like a really good idea, but when I actually started to buy meals, it wasn?t very convenient for me. I felt like I didn?t have very many options using the blocks.?

Sophomore creative writing major Zach Harris agreed, saying, ?I feel like last year there were more options. For example, it was possible to buy nothing but water bottles if you needed to do so. It also was possible to use more of your meal blocks for the two weeks, so that students weren?t cheated out of money.?

Unlike many students, a lack of parental complaints this year has persuaded the SBDC that most parents are satisfied with the meal block system. However, the SBDC does anticipate more complaints after the meal block plans are finalized on September 24.

The SBDC, which meets weekly, discusses food complaints, meal plan feedback, and meal plan monitoring. At the most recent meeting, several suggestions, such as the possibility of lowering the number of meal blocks offered to students, facilitating meal plan changes, and an online ordering system for meals, were discussed at length but no plans were finalized.

SBDC Chair Jay Pujara, a masters student in the School of Computer Science, noted that ?There are some satisfied people and some dissatisfied people and the committee?s goal is to help the dissatisfied people achieve satisfaction or at least an appreciation of the obstacles faced.? He also encouraged students to contact Dining Services if students have any meal block suggestions.

The next meeting of the SBDC will be held Thursday at 4:30 pm in room 318G of the University Center.